Southern Regional Soccer Teams Swipe Doubleheader From Pinelands
Guy Lockwood has a history of success in soccer, but he managed to secure one milestone he hadn’t yet acquired prior to Sept. 10. He got his first victory as a high school head coach.
Now coaching the boys soccer team at his alma mater, Lockwood happily watched from the sidelines as Southern Regional knocked off nearby rival Pinelands Regional, 2-0, in the culminating game of a doubleheader set up to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Beating a rival is a nice way to get that first win,” Lockwood said. “We had a great offensive effort and got the win, but we still have a lot more work to do.”
As Lockwood rebuilds the Rams into what he hopes to be a formidable opponent each game on the pitch, the effort Southern put forth on Saturday definitely was solid from start to finish.
In the first half, the Rams continually pressured the Wildcats’ defense and defensively allowed few chances to a good offensive unit led by senior Matt O’Connell, who had a direct kick carom off the crossbar with 12:06 left in the half and 30 seconds later had another shot from 20 yards bounce off the right post.
But otherwise, the first half belonged to Southern, which controlled much of the play and with 7:45 to go in the half drilled successive shots at the Pinelands goal, but senior goalkeeper Brian Kelleher kept the Rams at bay.
After playing through 50 minutes of scoreless soccer, O’Connell had the Wildcats’ best scoring opportunity when he ran onto a ball that was misplayed by Southern keeper Jay Boehler about 10 yards from goal. O’Connell tried to tee up the shot while Boehler scrambled to re-position himself, but O’Connell didn’t get off a clean shot and then had a second attempt knocked away by a defender.
Pinelands (2-1) didn’t have many chances after that, as the Rams (2-1) started taking better care to possess the ball and methodically broke down the Wildcats’ defense to start generating scoring chances. Eventually, with about three minutes to go, Southern broke through.
After mustering its last of just a few corner kicks for the game, Collin McHugh delivered the corner to the backside of the keeper’s box, where Conor Feeney put a head on the ball and sent it into the opposite side of the goal.
“We kept pushing forward, and I knew we’d get one at some point,” Feeney said. “We possessed the ball a lot more than we did in our first game (a 4-0 loss to Toms River North on Sept. 8), and we completed passes better. With a rivalry like this one, we wanted to be the ones to come out on top.”
About two minutes later, the Rams sealed the victory when Brad Bischoff ran onto a ball about 30 yards from goal, dribbled for several strides and then walloped a beautiful strike into the top of the goal from 19 yards away.
“After our first loss, we sat down as a team and talked about a bunch of things,” said Lockwood, whose squad improved its record with a 3-1 win over Shore Conference Class A South foe Brick Memorial on Sept. 12. “We went over how we wanted to play our game and dictate the pace of the game, and tonight we maintained a better ability to keep the ball in front of us.”
Earlier in the evening, the Southern girls also scored a win, 2-1, over Pinelands. During the first five minutes, the Rams established themselves as the team that would carry the play.
After Kayla Singiser played a ball down the left side, Shannon Lytle corralled it near the end line, worked it back toward the penalty area and ripped a sharp-angle shot from about 12 yards away at the near side of the goal, where Pinelands keeper Angela Wismar got both hands on it but not enough to push it wide of the goal.
“Once I was inside the 18-yard box, I knew I could take that shot,” said Lytle, a junior midfielder. “It was a tough angle and at first I didn’t think it was going in. But I was fortunate. You have to take shots to score, and it worked out.”
Despite a Pinelands scoring chance by Ellie Sorrentino – who took a great pass from Tori Angelus, gaining the penalty area before cutting the ball back against the defense and getting a shot off that was dealt away by Southern keeper Ava Castellazzo and then bounced off the left post – the 1-0 lead held into the second half.
With 26:39 left, the Rams (1-2) struck again, when Jordan Festa ran onto a ball from Megan Lockwood, carried it to just inside the penalty area and drilled a shot past Brenna DeVoe, who had gone in to play in goal for the second half.
“I knew Megan would play it over the defense, so I just made my run,” said Festa, who scored twice against Pinelands in the teams’ annual meeting. “When the defender mistouched it, I was clear to get a great shot off, but I couldn’t take another touch. I had to strike it immediately or the defender would have recovered too much.”
However, the Wildcats stayed within striking distance by bouncing right back with a goal at 26:16, when Aileen Cahill fired a shot from 20 yards into the top corner of the net. Some seven minutes later, Cahill took a pass from Angelus and zinged a shot wide from 18 yards, but the Wildcats mustered little after that.
“Our heart was in this game,” Festa said. “We played smart and didn’t give the ball up too much. We controlled the play better than we did in our first game,” a 5-1 loss to Toms River North on Sept. 8.
Lytle hoped the victory helps build up her teammates.
“Maybe a positive win like this will help keep the mojo up,” she said. “Going forward, we have to keep a positive attitude and get shots on goal. We need to possess the ball well each game.”
During Saturday’s doubleheader, Southern raised more than $700 for the Wounded Warrior Project. The next opportunity for the community to help support the cause will be Friday, Nov. 4, when the Southern football team plays Toms River South in its regular-season finale.
Southern Athletic Director Chuck Donohue Jr. also said “Southern Supports Wounded Warrior Project” T-shirts are available for purchase for $10 each. Anybody interested in purchasing one can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— David Biggy