NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ- New Providence senior Chris Kang scored at the 6:15-mark of overtime to lift the Pioneers boys soccer team past the Plainfield Cardinals in the Union County Tournament First Round by a final score of 2-1 Saturday afternoon in New Providence.
He got into position and stepped up when his team had a perfect set up, as he cashed in for his second goal of the season.
“All season, I think it’s all just about hard work and that’s where our team pulls through,” Kang said. “We play like a team and we don’t have individual players and I thought we fought the whole game and overtime.”
Kang’s goal completed a comeback when they were rusty in the opening ten minutes of the game and trailed for a majority of the first half.
Following the end of the regulation, the Pioneers talked over how to go at Plainfield on both sides of the ball to get the goal needed to secure the win before taking the field for the extra ten-minute period.
“They [Plainfield] were tucking in their outside mid-fielders, so we knew our outside-mids had to tuck in because they were bringing their mid-outside fielders in the center of the field to create numbers-up situations up the field,” New Providence head coach Jon Panella said. “So, we definitely had to balance that out by having our outside-mids tuck a little more to the center.”
“I tried to tell them to counter that to see if we could get on outside back more to the attack,” he added.
The Pioneers set up and made the adjustments in overtime, leading to Kang’s game-winning goal and advancing his team to the next round of the Union County Tournament.
Another key component to the win was New Providence senior goaltender Dillon Konzelmann, who came up with huge saves to give his team a chance whenever the defense couldn’t slow down the Cardinals on some drives in the game.
“We just never gave up,” Konzelmann said. “That’s kind of the motivation for our team, we try to fight all game. When we do that, most of the time, we wear the other team down and that’s what happened today.”
On the afternoon, he stopped 11 of 12 Cardinals shots in the win.
The Pioneers and Cardinals would trade headers and chances here and there against each other, but nothing was reaching the back of the net.
Plainfield came close to scoring around the 12-minute mark, but Konzelmann made a big save as the ball stayed out of the net and the game remained scoreless.
The Cardinals would gain some momentum and begin to pick up offensive pressure and opened the scoring with a goal at the 20:30-mark of the first half.
The Pioneers responded in the final minutes of the first half when senior Shane Mahlstadt received the ball on a setup from his teammates. Following the passes, he subsequently kicked the ball into the net to tie the game 1-1. His fifth goal of the season came at the 36:33-mark of the first half.
The Pioneers and Cardinals were tied 1-1 going into halftime. Mahlstadt’s goal appeared to swing momentum over to New Providence’s side as the second half began.
“That’s really what we needed at that point,” Mahlstadt said. “We never gave up, we just have to keep moving forward, even if we’re down. We’ve come back twice after being down 1-0 this season. My goal was set up for me and I put it in and that really jumpstarted our comeback.”
New Providence controlled the pace of the game in the opening minutes of the second half, but the game remained tied at 1-1.
On a free kick, the Pioneers built pressure and came close to taking the lead, but the ball went off the top post and went out, the game remained tied at 1-1.
Plainfield narrowly took the lead with under seven minutes to go, but Konzelmann made a tremendous save to keep the game tied and continued to give his team chances.
Looking ahead, the Pioneers have their minds set on achieving much more in the regular season to set up for better positioning for the state tournament.
“Our whole, main-world goal this year is to win the conference this year, so right now, we’re sitting in first place,” Panella said. “This is big PowerPoints for us this game, which will hopefully keep us number one in the sectionals.”
The New Providence Pioneers (8-2) advance to the Union County Tournament Quarterfinals. They will take on top-seeded Westfield HS on Saturday, October 14 at 1:00 p.m.
Next, New Providence will play at Oratory Prep Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
The Plainfield Cardinals (4-6) will play play at Ridge Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.