BERKELEY HEIGHTS – While preparing for its showdown with Westfield in the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament, the Gov. Livingston boys’ soccer team was able to exact some revenge on Thursday against its neighboring rival.
Junior Ethan Proper finished with two goals and sophomore Jamiel Saenz contributed a goal and an assist as the Highlanders rallied for a 3-1 victory over New Providence.
The triumph avenged a 3-2 setback Gov. Livingston absorbed against New Providence on Sept. 14. The Highlanders, who dropped a 3-1 decision against Oratory Prep on Monday, improved to 8-4-2.
Gov. Livingston trailed, 1-0, before a pair of goals within a span of a minute late in the first half gave the club a lead it would never relinquish.
Proper scored off a feed from Saenz with 4:44 left in the half to erase a 1-0 deficit. Then Sainz finished off a corner kick initiated off the foot of Alex Pitt, with senior Tom Candeloro assisting, a minute later to give the Highlanders a 2-1 lead.
“We had a slow start but then we were able to pick it up the last eight minutes of the fist half,” said Gov. Livingston assistant coach Kevin Fontana. “But Ethan got that goal on a tap and then Saenz scored. Those two goals within a minute really swung the momentum our way.
“It’s always a big game when we play New Providence. Our defense really picked it up in the second half. All those little things on defense that nobody keeps stats on matter and we stepped up and won more balls in the second half. We lost to a good Oratory team on Monday, so we wanted to make sure we get back to playing our way of soccer.”
Proper added his second goal in the second half off an assist from sophomore Christian Montes to extend the lead to 3-1 and Connor Bigelow and Jack Granelli combined to make eight saves for Gov. Livingtston.
The opening of the match could not have been better for New Providence (6-8), which was looking to rebound from a 4-3 loss to Linden.
Mark Elek connected to give New Providence the 1-0 advantage; and Miguel Garcia finished with 12 saves for the Pioneers.
“We played as well as we have recently,” said New Providence coach Craig Barclay. “We had a strong start, and all seemed to be working for us, but then with less than five minutes left in the first half Gov. Livingston got those two quick goals and it turned things. We didn’t deal well with the ball in the box but credit to Gov. Livingston for their effort, and Ethan Proper is some player. It’s always a really good, tough game every time we play each other. We wish Gov. Livingston the best in the county tournament.”
That now comes on Saturday when the Highlanders take to the road to play Westfield in the quarterfinal round at 1 p.m.
“Westfield will be a really tough challenge,” Fontana said. “We will certainly need to play better on Saturday.”