West Orange coach Sean Devore has seen enough of his team’s battles with Livingston to know that this Saturday night’s Essex County Tournament championship match promises to be more of the same.
“It’s a great rivalry and it just seems that every season in the counties or states we wind up meeting Livingston and it’s always a terrific battle all the way to the end of each match,” said the top-seeded Mountaineers’ seventh-year head mentor. “I think that Livingston is playing better than anyone else in the county right now and we expect another tremendous game with them in the county final.”
West Orange (9-2-2) will face sixth-seeded Livingston (6-5-2), 7 p.m., Saturday, in Belleville, in the ECT girls final, or 20 minutes following the completion of the ECT boys title tilt between Seton Hall Prep and West Orange, which is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
West Orange defeated fifth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy, 1-0, in Wednesday’s ECT semifinals at Millburn and surging sixth-seeded Livingston (6-5-2), which is 4-0-1 in its last five games, survived a penalty kick shootout vs. second-seeded and defending champion Montclair following a 1-1 tie through 100 minutes of soccer, including two 10-minute overtimes.
The Lancers will be appearing in their 14th ECT final (second most behind Montclair's 23) while they are also shooting for a seventh county tourney championship in the 38 years of the event. There was no ECT in 2020 due to COVID.
“The competition in our division (Super Essex Conference-American) is always first rate and MKA gave us another terrific game,” said Devore, whose team edged the Lancers, 2-1, in regular season action back on Sept. 21. “Then to see how Livingston survived and advanced against an always solid Montclair team is simply indicative of what we all face in these types of showdowns, especially when you get to the latter stages of the county tournament.”
In looking just recently at the West Orange-Livingston girls soccer rivalry, the Lancers defeated the Mountaineers twice last season, 1-0, during the regular season and then 2-0 in an NJSIAA Northeast E regional semifinal to cap the truncated COVID-affected 2020 season. In 2019, Livingston edged West Orange, 3-2, in the ECT semifinals, but the Mountaineers defeated the Lancers, 1-0, in the North 1, Group 4 state tournament sectional quarterfinals.
West Orange won its first and only ECT title in 2018 and had the regular season track record over the first half of 2021 to earn the No. 1 seed. The Mountaineers have a young nucleus leading the way including three very promising freshmen in the starting lineup with midfielder Lauren Villasin (4 goals, 2 assists), forward Aminata Diop (3 goals, 2 assists) and goalkeeper Hannah Amoyaw.
Villasin has been clutch in the ECT with game-winning goals vs. Glen Ridge (1-0 quarterfinal win) and with five minutes remaining in the semifinal victory over persistent MKA.
Sophomores to watch for West Orange include forward Madison Cyrus (3 goals) and midfielders Jaiden Schultz (7 goals, 1 assist) and Josephine Locricchio.
The Mountaineers’ experienced defense is spearheaded by senior backs and co-captains Tori Rideau-Winds (2 goals) and Kennedy Morgan (4 assists).
“Tori and Kennedy are two of the best backs in the state and do a great job leading us out there while playing great all over the field,” said Devore. “Our upper classmen have meshed very well with our younger girls and the combination has led to some of our best soccer during this stretch run toward the county final.”