Hanna Delivers OT Game-Winner as Pinelands Girls Soccer Squad Improves to 6-2

By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 27, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Alex Hanna (third from right) is mobbed by teammates after she scores the game-winning goal in Pinelands’ 3-2, overtime victory over Lacey on Sept. 25.

For the first 44 minutes of the Pinelands Regional girls soccer team’s contest against Shore Conference Class B South rival Lacey on Sept. 25, the Wildcats seemed out of sync, off kilter and at times downright sloppy. The Lions carried the bulk of the play, won a vast majority of the 50-50 balls and were out-muscling and out-hustling the Wildcats all over the field.

Sure, Alex Hanna delivered a shot on goal off a corner kick and it bounced off the left goal post with just over four minutes left in the first half, but that was the best scoring chance Pinelands mustered through 40 minutes. And it wasn’t until Sunni DiElmo got behind the defense to a through-ball nearly five minutes into the second half, beat the opposing goalkeeper but touched the ball just wide of the goal, that the spark finally ignited the bulb.

“We sensed the momentum shifting,” said DiElmo, who scored the first of Pinelands’ goals and had the assist on the game-winner by Hanna 2:30 into the overtime to lift the Wildcats to a big, 3-2 victory. “When we started the second half, we were really fired up. We realized that we had to raise our level of play. We just kept telling ourselves, ‘We can’t let them take this game.’ We played a lot better in the second half.”

Lacey (6-1) took the initial lead with a goal just 3:20 into the contest. Pinelands keeper Brenna DeVoe and the defense made sure the Lions didn’t add any more goals during the first half, and after the intermission the Wildcats brought more fire.

“I knew we’d eventually pull through,” DeVoe said. “We were more inspired in the second half. We started communicating better. We started believing in ourselves.”

Still, DiElmo didn’t break through to the goal until 22:13 remained on the clock – when Rachel Staino served a ball from the right side and DiElmo buried into the middle of the goal from 10 yards away – but it started a whirlwind for the Wildcats. Just 41 seconds later, Aileen Cahill busted behind Lacey’s back line, ran onto a ball played from midfield and fired a shot past the keeper from 15 yards to give Pinelands a 2-1 lead.

Pinelands (6-2) worked hard for several more scoring opportunities but wasn’t able to add a third goal during regulation. However, the Lions conjured up some offense later in the second half and equalized with 11:35 left, when DeVoe lost control of a free kick and the rebound was buried into the right corner.

The Wildcats earned a corner kick with a few minutes to go, but it was thwarted and the game went into overtime. Pinelands made the most of its first offensive opportunity. After working the ball deep into Lacey’s defensive half, a throw-in resulted in DiElmo delivering the ball to Hanna just inside the right side of the penalty area.

“I knew the move I was making, that I could turn and get a shot,” Hanna said. “We had the opportunity and I wanted to try to capitalize on it. I just wanted to put the ball on goal in that situation.”

She turned and dribbled left, temporarily shook the defender and ripped a shot from 16 yards away. The ball was slightly deflected by the defender, putting a weird spin on it as it approached the goal. The keeper got her left hand on the ball as she attempted to punch it away, but she didn’t hit it cleanly and, instead, the ball bounced to her left and the backspin sent it toward the goal line.

As Marlee Tharp crashed the goal for a potential rebound, the ball bounced twice more – over the line and then into the right corner, setting off a celebration at the top of the penalty area.

“I saw the ball bouncing and I couldn’t breathe for that moment,” Hanna said. “We worked so hard in this game, trying to get the win, so I was just saying, ‘Please, go in! Please, go in!’ We really wanted this one.”

The victory marked the fourth straight for the Wildcats. But more importantly, with the second half of the division schedule coming up, the win tightened up the race for the division title. Lacey and Manchester lead the way at 6-1, followed by Point Pleasant Borough and Pinelands at 5-2.

“We need to play better against the good teams in our division,” Hanna said. “We have to play our best the entire game every time we go out on the field now. But, for sure, this one is going to boost our confidence.”

After a 5-0 win over Donovan Catholic on Sept. 15 stopped a two-game losing skid, the Wildcats knocked off Jackson Liberty, 7-1, on Sept. 19, followed by a 3-0 win over Barnegat on Sept. 21.

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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