WESTFIELD, NJ — Saturday afternoon at Gary Kehler Stadium in Westfield featured two teams riding hot streaks between the Westfield High School Blue Devils, who have lost only one game, taking on a red-hot New Providence High School Pioneers team that was looking for their ninth straight win.
In a tight back-and-forth game, the top-seeded Blue Devils had a little bit more to pull through, defeating the eighth-seeded Pioneers by a final score of 2-0 in the Union County Tournament Quarterfinals.
Westfield struck early in the first half, when senior Lee Beauchamp scored the game’s opening goal, his fourth one of the season, to give his team the 1-0 lead at the 6:09-mark of the first half.
“We knew if we were patient enough, we would wind up breaking them down and have a chance,” Westfield head coach Eric Shaw said. “The first goal from Lee, was a great goal, just an individual strike.”
Once he scored, the rest of the game was a back-and-forth contest between the two teams. There were shots, free kicks and corner kicks towards the nets, but the score remained 1-0 Westfield at the half.
“It was good to get out early, but our defense and midfielders played really well to hold it down back there,” Beauchamp said. “We made some good clearances, played well defensively, so I think it was a good game for us.”
As the second half started, New Providence continued to pick up the pace on the offensive side, but couldn’t quite set up any major opportunities to break through with the game-tying goal.
Westfield broke the stalemate in the second half with senior Devon Tikku’s third goal of the season, giving the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead at the 27:43-mark of the second half to give a comfortable lead for the rest of the way.
“It’s always important when we’re up 1-0 going into the half, that we close it out early,” Tikku said. “We didn’t get the early goal [in the second half], but I’m glad that with about 15 minutes left, we got to finish them off.”
Westfield senior goaltender Josh Mendelson recorded the shutout, stopping all three Pioneers shots that came his way. He credited his team’s battle on the defensive side for keeping the lead intact and preventing any major chances for New Providence.
“Our persistence was very good,” Mendelson said. “We had to work on going hard all the way through and not losing sight of the final goal and I think we really did a great job at doing that today.”
Despite coming up short in a close, one-goal game, New Providence was happy with the battle they fought on the field on the afternoon. They remain focused on the schedule that lays ahead.
“I thought [my guys] put in 100 percent effort, I’m proud of them,” New Providence head coach Jon Panella said. “I told them they earned the right to get to the quarterfinals by winning two games. Games like these are going to help us as the season rolls along, in terms of state tournament time.”
New Providence senior goaltender Dillon Konzelmann made nine saves on 11 shots in the loss for his team.
“We knew going in this was going to be a tough game going into it,” Konzelmann said. “So, we wanted to give it 100 percent all game and that’s what the boys did. I thought we kept up with them and we gave them a game, so that’s all that matters.”
The Blue Devils (12-1-1) advance to the Union County Tournament Semifinals on Saturday, Oct. 21, where they will face off against Summit HS at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, with the time TBD.
Westfield won the last meeting between the two teams on Oct. 5 by a final score of 4-2 on the road.
“It was a great matchup two weeks ago and we wound up being on the better side that day,” Shaw said. “They have some quality in the middle and they have some heart and passion, which they showed last week. We’re excited for the opportunity to be in the semifinals, so we take it one game at a time.”
Their next regular season game is a home game Tuesday afternoon against Plainfield at 4 p.m.
The New Providence Pioneers (10-3) head out on the road for their next game at Arthur L. Johnson HS Monday afternoon at 4 p.m.