LIVINGSTON, NJ — Following a double-overtime tie, 1-1, in an intense second round of the state tournament, the fourth-seeded Livingston girls soccer team will advance to the next round after defeating fifth-seeded West Orange, 4-1, in penalty kicks on Thursday.
West Orange had an impressive season, with multiple shutouts against Bergen Tech, Nutley, Belleville, Montclair, Verona, Science Park, Memorial, Bloomfield and Newark East Side. The Mountaineers end their season with an overall record of 13-0-5.
Having tied West Orange in the regular season—when the Mountaineers were nearly undefeated and the Lancers were still struggling on the field and ultimately being written off by other teams—Lancers head coach Paul Raiz said Thursday’s home-turf matchup was emotionally intense.
“[West Orange is] very dangerous—I give them a lot of credit,” said Raiz. “They’re a really good team and they do what they do really well. Like the great team they were this year, they fought back.”
West Orange’s Nyah Harper headed in a goal off a free kick from Natalie Nevins early in the first half. The Mountaineers came out hard in the second half, leading 1-0, but a Livingston reformation that brought Kayla Parsons up to offense led to a goal from the sophomore off an assist from junior Sarah Miller.
A scoreless double overtime left the coaches to choose only five girls to go head-to-head with the opposing goalie.
Having practiced penalty kicks (PKs) over the last few weeks, knowing that PKs could have been a possibility in the county tournament, Raiz said he liked Livingston’s chances. Senior captain Tori Belcuore netted the final goal for Livingston, which went 4-4 in PKs with goals from Parsons, Miller and Ashley Reuter.
“We liked our chances,” said Raiz. “We’ve been playing our best soccer in the last third of the season. We got some girls back from injury, we matured a lot as a team, we bonded and we’ve kind of been through the fire and came out the other end stronger.”
Raiz was also impressed with goalkeeper Jocelyn McCauley, who made a massive save in overtime that kept West Orange from ending the contest with a victory. He said the senior has been waiting for the opportunity to start in the position and has been “soaring” since being put in goal.
West Orange goalkeeper Samantha Herbert made eight saves in the defeat.
Although the Lancers were looking forward to taking on rival Montclair, which lost its match against Ridgewood on Thursday, Livingston will host Ridgewood in the semifinal round NJSIAA/Wilson Sporting Goods North 1, Group 4 playoffs on Monday.
“We’re going to have another great game, another tough opponent,” said Raiz. “They’ve won state championships, they’re big, they’re talented and they’re well-coached, so we’re looking forward to a good matchup. Hopefully we can win this game and return to the sectional finals to defend our crown.”