NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - In the first round of the NJSIAA Central Group 2 playoffs, the number sixth-seeded New Providence Pioneers defeated rival Governor Livingston, 3-1. With the win, the Pioneers advance to the second round where they’ll face three-seed Matawan on Thursday..

New Providence’s James Miller chose the best time of his young career to have a career day as the sophomore scored all three Pioneer goals. Senior Cristiano Hocken assisted on two of Miller’s goals.

Killian Quinn scored Governor Livingston’s lone goal when he forced the GL goal from a corner after the ball deflected off Pioneer defender. 

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Any state tournament game has huge stakes but when the game is between one of the long-standing rivalries in the state, much fuel is added to the fire and that was certainly the case in Monday’s matchup.

New Providence head coach Jon Panella. was pleased with how his team responded to not only the pressure of the game but also the constant defensive pressure from Governor Livingston.

“You know how good GL is,” Panella said. “GL’s a great team which makes me even more proud of my guys because they had to withstand a lot of pressure throughout the game.”

Holding a 1-0 lead, Governor Livingston’s Josiah Crawford was hellbent on bringing his team back. Crawford was controlling much of the play offensively and his teammates fed off his energy with great passing.

Crawford had the attention of the New Providence coaching staff and players heading into Monday’s match and he showed why through his play.

“Crawford was a handful for us to deal with,” Panella said. “He’s one of the best players we’ve played against all season. The plan was to not let him out wide and to keep him in front of us.”

“At the end, we finally just told Cristiano to stay with him because he could’ve got us at any time.”

As efficient as the Highlanders were offensively on Monday, the Pioneers were just as effective defensively. The Pioneers stayed disciplined and forced the Highlanders into tough shots throughout the game. Making it harder for the Highlanders was the play of New Providence junior goalie Dillon Konzelmann.

Despite a plethora of corner opportunities and free kicks from penalties, Konzelmann and his teammates never faltered.

“Our mentality coming in was that if they were going to score on Dylan, it would be from distance,” Panella said.

Shortly after Quinn tied the game at 1, Miller struck again to put his team up one with his final goal with 3:19 remaining being the dagger.

“For a sophomore, James Miller played as good a game you could ask for,” Panella said. “James was actually out the last time we played GL because of an injury.”

“Coming in, we knew they would key in on Cristiano which would help free James up.”

The second round versus Matawan will be just as tough a matchup as Monday but Panella is confident his team will be up to the challenge.

For one, this Pioneers team will not be outworked which Panella loves about them.

“I give the kids so much credit for today’s win,” Panella said. “They worked very hard. These are some of the hardest working kids that I've ever been around.”