NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Conference rival and first-round playoff opponent Arthur L. Johnson came to Lieder Field Thursday on Senior Night and spoiled the day for the 12 graduating players, as the Crusaders topped New Providence, 3-0, in boys soccer for the second time this season.
Prior to the game, the entire senior class was honored for their dedication and commitment to the program, whether it is for four years or just one.
“All of the seniors have been all in with this program since I’ve been here as coach,” New Providence coach Jon Panella said. “They all deserved the playing time tonight and they all played really well.”
After the pregame ceremony came to a conclusion, there was a big game to play on the pitch as next week New Providence will travel to Clark to take on the Crusaders in a first round match-up between conference foes.
It was an all-senior starting lineup, other than back-up goalie Matt Byrnes getting the starting nod in net, and despite some lack of experience in the starting 11, they exceeded expectation and kept the match extremely close.
“It was really nice to see all of the seniors play, whether they have a big role on the team on the field or not,” senior co-captain Jimmy Evangelos said. “Either way, I really liked the way everybody played and it was fun having all the seniors play today.”
Johnson converted for a goal in the first half, and would proceed to tack onto that lead as two more tallies in the second period put the game out of reach.
Even though the loss puts the Pioneers back at .500, Panella as well as Evangelos both believe that squaring off with Johnson less than a week before they meet again pays huge dividends.
“We realized today that they are human and we can definitely get a positive result against them Tuesday,” Panella said after the game. “Even though we didn’t get the win today getting to see them play will benefit us come Tuesday.”
“We now know who their dangerous players are and what they like to do with the ball,” Evangelos said. “I think that we can do much better on Tuesday having just played them today.”
Before the showdown with Johnson next week, the Pioneers close their regular season with a big matchup against Oratory, a team New Providence defeated earlier in the season 3-2.
Kickoff at Lieder Field is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday night.