NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Perhaps it was the six-day layoff or possibly the unseasonable weather, but it took longer then expected for the New Providence boys soccer team to get going in its Union County Tournament opening round game on Wednesday afternoon.
But in the end, the seventh-seeded Pioneers ended up tallying a season-high seven goals in earning a 7-2 victory over 18th-seeded Roselle in the first round of the 54th UCT at Lieder Field in New Providence.
"We were rusty at the start so it took us a while to get into the groove," said New Providence head coach Craig Barclay. "To be honest, I really wasn't happy with our performance in the first half but in the second half we were able to properly get going."
New Providence (6-5), which last played when it suffered a 3-2 loss to Johnson on Sept. 26, found itself locked in a 1-1 tie with Roselle (5-6) early in the first half after the visitors scored off a corner kick just 12 minutes into the contest.
"When they scored to tie the game it got us a little nervous," said Barclay. "Maybe we needed that because it woke us up a bit."
The Pioneers were able to exert its dominance on offense from that point on and score the next four goals before Roselle scored again late in the second half.
New Providence was paced by Mark Elek, who had three goals and an assist, while Dylan Paniagua and Christian Caburis each had a goal and an assist.
Christian Muller and Angel Garcia also found the back of the net for the Pioneers.
Elek, a senior, who now has a team-high 12 goals on the season including two hat tricks, has impressed Barclay with his offensive process.
"Mark was a defender for us last year and this is his first season playing on offense," said Barclay. "He's been great for us and living up to expectations."
Miguel Garcia anchored the New Providence defense, recording six saves in goal. Jack Schatzman played the final 20 minutes and made one save.
The majority of the game was played in very non-October like 90 degree sunshine with the tail end of the match in a windy rain.
"We definitely the weather would be like that and we were able to deal with the conditions," said Barclay.
New Providence will now play host to 10th-seeded Plainfield in a UCT second round game on Saturday, Oct. 5 at a time to be determined.
The winner of that game will advance to the UCT quarterfinal round against fourth-seeded Summit on Saturday, Oct. 12.
New Providence has never won the UCT and reached its only final in 1984 when it bowed to Westfield, 1-0.
"Plainfield is a very good team and it will be a challenge for sure," said Barclay. "We got a higher seed than we were expecting but I'll gladly take it. There are about 12 teams in the county that can beat anybody on any given day."