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Seton Hall Prep, under the direction of veteran head coach Marty Berman, has made it to the Essex County Boys Soccer Tournament finals where the talented Pirates will take on Livingston, 7 p.m., Saturday, at Millburn. SHP dispatched with East Side, 1-0, in the semis. (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

Livingston's Alex Sugerman (right) had team's second goal in Wednesday night's 3-1 ECT semifinal win over Belleville. (Photos by Aaron Matthews)

Barrett’s Rare Goal Proves Big
To Propel SHP Into ECT Final
…Livingston Defeats Belleville To Also Advance

By Aaron Matthews
For sidelinechatter.com

BELLEVILLE - Seton Hall Prep has come to expect strong defensive plays from John Barrett like the two goal saving stops the senior back made in the first half of Wednesday night's Essex County Tournament semifinal.

Much to the surprise of the Pirates, Barrett was equally clutch on the offensive end as well.

With 37:15 left in the game, Brett Rojas delivered a corner kick towards the far post where Barrett was perfectly located to head the ball into the net for the game's lone goal as second-seeded Seton Hall Prep as it defeated sixth-seeded Newark East Side, 1-0, in the ECT semifinals.

It was the first career varsity goal for Barrett.

Seton Hall Prep (16-2-1) will square off against Livingston in Saturday's championship game at 7 p.m. at Millburn High School. The fifth-seeded Lancers defeated host and ninth-seeded Belleville, 3-1, in the other semifinal.

"On the corner, usually I like to go in late and take the 'four' position, which is all the way at the back post, and all season it hasn't really came to me," Barrett said. "But this time, I saw it go over everyone's head and I had it.

"I tried to hit it down and I hit it off my knee (and in)."

"I don't like him going up for set pieces because I don't think he's that good on them," said Seton Hall Prep coach Marty Berman with a laugh. "Once in a while as a coach you need to be overruled."

Last night's goal was simply the latest example of Barrett surprising his head coach. Ankle surgery caused Barrett to miss not just his junior season, but most of the summer as well.

"He's been an unbelievably pleasant surprise. To be honest, I never really counted on him, I just thought physically he wouldn't able to make it," Berman said. "He's had a great year for us and it's really fitting that he came through for us."

Before the winning goal, Barrett stopped East Side (10-5) from two goals. A rare misplay by Seton Hall Prep keeper Conner Mieth gave Mauricio Cruz an open net, but Barrett was there to block to the shot in the 16th minute. Barrett also blocked a Luan C. Souza shot in the 30th minute.

Mieth finished with three saves for his 14th shutout of the season as he and his defense once again rose to the occasion in the absence of leading scorers Mike Hall and Abby Elsayed due to injury.

"I think we've just stepped up to the challenge, Mieth said."We're a team that if you give us a challenge, we'll reach it no matter what. I think that actually gave us motivation and helped us."

Austin Verissimo made six saves for East Side, which had won six in a row. The most impressive one coming on a Xander Saling breakaway late in the second half.

CHAIKIN, LEVITT HELP SEND LIVINGSTON TO FINAL

Jesse Levitt felt he had let him Livingston teammates down when he was issued a yellow card and was forced to the sidelines for when Belleville scored to make it a one-goal game in the 57th minute.

The senior back didn't need long to get his own personal redemption as he buried a free kick from 26 yards away just under the crossbar for a goal in the 59th minute to give fifth-seeded Livingston a 3-1 victory over ninth-seeded Belleville in the ECT semifinal contest at Belleville.

"I knew I had let my teammates down with a yellow. So I knew I had to bring it back for them and score," said Levitt. "I knew I had to step up for teammates and I did what I could and scored it."

"I was nervous," Livingston coach Roger Rubinetti said. "(Belleville) gets the momentum, they get everything going and we needed a quick answer. When he set that ball up, I knew he was going to put it in.

"(Jesse's) a senior, he's battled with us for the last three years. He knows that that's his specialty. That's his spot and that's where he had to step up. I thought it was just a tremendous shot for him to hit and get us right back and take the wind out of their sails."

Levitt's goal, his first of the season, effectively killed the momentum Belleville (13-4-2) had generated after long Max Correa free kick was headed by Kevin Vicente and then headed in by PJ Gencarelli to make it a one-goal game.

The Bucaneers however, were unable to generate any further offense after Levitt's goal and the typically strong Livingston (12-3-3) defense held Belleville without a shot on the frame after that.

Facing a raucous Belleville crowd and a team flying high after an overtime upset over top-seeded Millburn, the Lancers knew it needed to make a quick statement. Such a message came in the first five minutes as Dan Kaltman's corner kick went off Robbie April, then was headed in by Zachary Chaikin for a goal just 4:16 into the contest.

"It was a corner kick and it hit off of Robbie's head. It came to my head and I just put it in the back of the net," Chaikin said. "It's important to get the first goal in every game. We needed that and it got us off to a good start."

"That was huge for us. That was one of the things we spoke about because they're home, they're on a roll, they got the crowd," Rubinetti said. "We needed to try to come out, get an early one and maybe quiet them and get a little unsettled. When Zach went up and got that corner to put us up, that was a big relief to get that early lead."

Alex Sugarman made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute, scoring on a one-timer from 25 yards out with Cole Charney getting the assist.

Garrett Meinhardt made one save for the Lancers, who have now won six in a row and are 10-1-2 over the last 13 games. Belleville's Jason Cadena, playing in place of injured keeper Kevin Coronel, had three saves.

NOTES: This is the second time in four seasons that Livingston and Seton Hall Prep have met in the ECT finals. The Pirates were victorious 3-0 that game to win a third straight ECT title. Neither team had been to the ECT final since, with each falling in the semifinal last year. Livingston and Seton Hall Prep played to a 1-1 draw on Oct. 2 in a contest, the Lancers led for the majority of. Seton Hall Prep is seeking its first championship since three-peating from 2009 - 2011. Livingston's last ECT championship came in 1995. Belleville was seeking its first trip to the final of the tournament's 41-year history. East Side hadn't reached the title game since 1978 when it defeated Vailsburg in penalty kicks.

Robbie April's head was put to good use once again as he helped lead Livingston with key play in 3-1 ECT semifinal victory over Belleville.

 

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