All Local Soccer Teams Make the Conference Tourney But Only Pinelands Advances Past First Round

Oct 18, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy The Southern Regional boys soccer team had multiple chances to score during the first half of its 2-1 loss to Raritan in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 16.

It’s taken more than a decade, but for the first time since Barnegat High School opened its doors all three local high school boys soccer teams earned spots in the Shore Conference Tournament. But while all three played in first-round contests on Oct. 16, only one advanced to the next round.

Unfortunately, Southern Regional wasn’t the one, as the 14th-seeded Rams were upended by 19th-seeded Raritan, 2-1. For a second straight year, Southern lost a first-round game by a goal – last year, the Rams lost, 1-0, in overtime against Colts Neck.

“I thought we played very well today,” said coach Guy Lockwood. “We played fantastic soccer between the 18-yard boxes but not well enough inside the 18s.”

The Rams (8-7-1) certainly had plenty of chances to score in the first half, carrying a bulk of the play through much of it, particularly during the last 25 minutes, when the Rams fired a half-dozen shots at the goal and earned several corner kicks.

But after Anthony Sparacino staked the Rockets (7-5-3) to a 1-0 lead 19:40 into the first half, the Rockets came out in the second half and immediately started putting pressure on the Southern defense. Eventually, Raritan cracked through the back line, and Nick Bavaro scored on a breakaway 16:34 into the second half for a two-goal lead.

It took Southern another 10 minutes to get itself moving on offense again – barely possessing the ball longer than two passes most of the time – but eventually a sense of urgency kicked in. With just under three minutes left in the contest, senior captain Ethan Leming put the Rams on the scoreboard when he lined up a direct kick 23 yards from goal, just off the left corner of the penalty area, and fired a shot into the upper right corner.

During the final two minutes, the Rams pushed forward and turned up the heat on Raritan’s defense. With the clocking ticking down toward the end of regulation, Southern earned a corner kick, which yielded nothing but led to the Rams taking possession near midfield for one final rush toward goal. The ball was worked downfield and sent to the top of the keeper’s box, where Nico Leonard delivered a one-timer into the bottom right corner. However, the referee ruled him offside, and seconds later the other referee blew the whistle to end the contest.

“The urgency kicked in and it had to,” Lockwood said. “On that last run, I think the referee probably got the call right. I couldn’t really see it well from my angle, but the boys didn’t seem to disagree too much.”

For the Rams, the fact they were playing in the SCT for a second straight season is a big deal. It hasn’t happened since Lockwood’s last two years as a player – 1989 and 1990.

“We have to continue to raise the expectations and reach for a bar that is sitting beyond us right now,” he said. “The goal was to get into the Shore Conference Tournament and earn the home-field advantage for the first game. We did that, but unfortunately we gave it up. They (the players) understand what the expectation is and where the bar is. When the 11 put their minds to it, they play at a very high level. We just need 11 guys on the field playing well together at the same time, and doing it consistently.”

Wildcats Cruise
Into Next Round

Four different players scored for sixth-seeded Pinelands Regional ,and the Wildcats easily advanced to the Round of 16 with a 4-0 victory over 27th-seeded Point Pleasant Beach. Dominic DosSantos and Kieran Sundermann each tallied a goal and an assist, while brothers Frank and Antony Aguilar each scored once, and captain Caden Sundermann added an assist. Keeper Logan Johnson registered five saves for the shutout.

But while it’s exciting the Wildcats (13-1-1) moved on to play 11th-seeded Long Branch in the SCT’s next round, the more exciting news from last week was that Pinelands captured the Shore Conference Class B South division title for the first time ever.

According to Athletic Director Will Sundermann, the Wildcats last won a division title 28 years ago, when they played in the Class C South division. Since entering the B South division several years later, Pinelands hadn’t won the crown until the team’s 5-1 win over Barnegat on Oct. 11.

Kieran Sundermann led the Wildcats with a pair of goals, while Luke Mathis, Aniello Lubrano and Anthony Diaz each found the back of the net once. Antony Aguilar added an assist as well. Pinelands took a 3-1 lead into halftime before finishing off the Bengals with a pair of second-half goals.

Bengals Scorched
In SCT Opener

For Barnegat, the thrill of playing in the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time in school history was short-lived, as seventh-seeded Howell took a 1-0 lead during the second minute and poured on four more goals by halftime, en route to an 8-1 victory. Five different players scored for the Rebels (9-5-1). The Bengals’ Matt White scored on a pass from Chad Fraser during the 57th minute to end the shutout bid.

Still, the Bengals (8-8) getting into the SCT is a big deal, considering they won just four games last season. Barnegat clinched its spot in the SCT with a 7-3 victory over B South division rival Jackson Liberty on Oct. 5, but then lost its next two games.

— David Biggy

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