NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J. - After a devastating loss last November in the state playoffs to Brearley, the Pioneers overpowered the Bears, 3-1, behind a pair of goals by junior Sean Regan.
New Providence got off to an explosive start, controlling the ball and tempo and keeping possession deep into Brearley territory.
“I told the guys to come out ready to compete and ready to go,” Pioneer head coach Jon Panella said, referring to their quick start. “It caught them by surprise and we were able to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The quick start was initiated by Regan when he received a great ball from the Pioneer midfield, and then weaved his way through multiple Brearley defenders and slipped the ball past Kevin Filipe just 8 minutes into the game.
“I got a good pass from the midfield and was able to make some goods moves past their defenders,” Regan said. “I’m glad I got the early goal and we were able to get off to a really solid start.”
Instead of sitting on their early lead, the Pioneers kept up the intense pressure, thanks to their extremely strong midfield and defense, which their coach said was a key testament to their success.
“I was really pleased with the start we got off to,” Panella said. “But we knew that we were playing a very good team and we couldn’t stop there.”
15 minutes later, Regan was in the thick of things once again as he was able to draw a free kick right outside the 18-yard box. He then blasted a kick that ricocheted off the crossbar and after a scramble in front of the net, junior midfielder Nathan Dounel was able to burry the ball in the back of the net to double the New Providence advantage.
“We worked on free kicks a lot in practice and I knew that it was important to follow up on the shots,” Dounel said. “When the ball came in I was lucky that Matt (Mondelli) hit the ball first and it came to me and I was able to put it in.”
New Providence was not done there, as Regan converted his second tally of the game in the 28th minute as he found a hole in the Brearley defense, receiving a perfect pass from Sebastian Camacho and flicking it past the Brearley netminder to extend the Pioneer lead to 3-0.
However, Brearley cut into their deficit as Elijah Allen was able to put home a loose ball in the box after multiple failed attempts to clear it by the Pioneer defense.
“What I told the team at halftime was that a two goal lead is the most deceiving lead in soccer,” said Panella. “I knew we were really have to grind it out and be resilient in the second half and battle for every ball.”
Resilient they were as their defense and goalkeeping were key in the last 40 minutes, as freshman netminder Dillon Konzelmann, making his first appearance in goal, made two huge saves to preserve the New Providence lead. Additionally, senior co-captains James Marriot and Neil Vinaixa were stalwarts on the defensive end, shutting down the Bear attack.
The Pioneers look to start the season off 2-0 as they travel to Springfield to take on Dayton High School on Thursday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.