Pinelands Boys Soccer Team Makes Quick Exit From Conference Tourney

Oct 17, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands Regional goalkeeper Gavin Harris makes a save during the Wildcats' 3-2, overtime loss to Colts Neck in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 13.

No surprise runs through the Shore Conference Tournament this year. Instead, the wind was blown out of the Pinelands Regional boys soccer team’s sails in a hurry this time around.

After a scoreless second half, the Wildcats controlled the tempo and carried the bulk of the play during the first overtime period, but a quick counterstrike by Colts Neck with just over two minutes left ended the Wildcats’ hopes of advancing past the first round, as they dropped a 3-2 contest to the Cougars on Oct. 13.

“I kind of thought Colts Neck was seeded too low,” Pinelands head coach Nino Scotto de Carlo said of the 23rd seed, which dealt the Wildcats their fourth loss of the season. “We knew they were a solid team, and we prepared for a close game. It was a pretty even battle for most of the game. We were playing well in the overtime, but they counter well.”

Heading into the Shore Conference Tournament as the 10th seed, Pinelands (9-4) was riding a three-game winning streak and, after reaching the SCT quarterfinals last fall, had expectations of at least reaching the next round. Unfortunately, Ethan Kilmnick spoiled those plans. With the score tied at 2-2, the Wildcats’ Kieran Sundermann worked the ball along the left side of the midfield and delivered a ball toward the penalty area. A Colts Neck defender cleared the ball forward, and it eventually landed on the feet of Kilmnick, who pushed the ball ahead, streaked past a Pinelands defender and fired a shot a few yards off the right corner of the penalty area.

Goalkeeper Gavin Harris made a dive for the ball, but it bounced off the inside of the left post and settled into the back of the goal, setting off a Cougars celebration.

“It’s tough to lose that way in overtime,” Scotto de Carlo said. “You’re playing to win the game and putting pressure on their defense, and then they come down on a counterattack and score. It’s definitely not what we were hoping for. But give that kid credit. He’s a really good player, and he made a great shot when they needed it.”

Pinelands opened the scoring during the first minute, when John Hart scored off a corner just 42 seconds into the contest. With 12:19 left in the first half, the Cougars equalized when Brooks Condon flicked a header into the lower left corner from 10 yards away.

Colts Neck grabbed the lead when Anthony Fiorello one-touched a corner past Harris with 8:39 left in the half. But with 45 seconds left, Pinelands’ Dom DosSantos got to a loose ball in the penalty area, pushed it to his left clear of a defender and delivered a left-footed shot from 8 yards into the lower right corner to knot the score at halftime.

The Wildcats managed several scoring chances in the second half but couldn’t find a way to regain the lead. Meanwhile, with about 10 minutes left, Pinelands was dealt a tough blow when Frank Aguilar was red-carded for fouling an opposing forward on a breakaway opportunity, forcing the Wildcats to play a man down for the rest of the game.

Still, Pinelands didn’t relent, and with 3:12 to go Hart fired a shot from the left side of the field, some 25 yards away from goal, and it bounced off the crossbar near the upper right corner. The ball was cleared by a defender, and the Wildcats didn’t register another shot on goal as regulation time wound down.

“It’s tough to lose a guy in the second half of a big game,” Scotto de Carlo said. “Your team is used to playing a certain system, and when you go a man down you have to shift things around, and it causes some discomfort because some guys aren’t playing their normal positions at that point.”

Earlier in the week, on Oct. 9, Pinelands captured its second straight Shore Conference Class B South division title with a 4-0 win over Manchester. Hart scored three goals to lead the Wildcats to a 7-0 record in B South. Aniello Lubrano scored the other goal, and Creed Nass and Sundermann each dished out an assist. Harris made three saves to preserve the shutout – the Wildcats’ fifth of the season.

As it heads into the latter half of October, Pinelands likely will pick up a couple of games to avoid any rust as it awaits the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II tourney, which isn’t scheduled to begin until Oct. 27.

“I’m hoping we’ll be at least a seventh or eighth seed,” Scotto de Carlo said. “We’ll regroup, hopefully get a few more games in, and be ready for the state tournament. We went to the semifinals last year, and I think we can go deep again this year.”

— David Biggy

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