Pinelands Regional Boys Soccer Team Cruises Into Section Final with 5-0 Victory

Nov 07, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands senior Dom Dos Santos looks to get around a Cherry Hill West defender during the Wildcats’ victory in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III semifinals.

It took two rainy days and two different fields, but the Pinelands Regional boys soccer team is headed to its first NJSIAA sectional championship match in 29 years.

“We’re happy with the win and that we’re going to the section final, but the job’s not done,” said senior Kieran Sundermann, who tallied a hat trick to lead the Wildcats to a 5-0 bruising of Cherry Hill West in the South Jersey Group III semifinals. “We want the championship.”

To win that first sectional title since 1989 – when Pinelands defeated Delran to win the South Group II crown before getting knocked off in the Group II semifinals – Sundermann and the sixth-seeded Wildcats (11-4-1) will have to go through fourth-seeded Seneca (18-1-3), which knocked off eighth-seeded Moorestown, 3-1, in the other semifinal. The section title match is at Seneca High School on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m.

“This is a big deal for us,” said senior Dominick Dos Santos. “We really wanted to get to the final. We’ve put everything we have into this season, and the goal is to win the title. Seneca’s a good team, but if we play our style and do what we do best, we believe we can bring that title home.”

Even in the pouring rain Monday afternoon, the Wildcats did what they do best against the seventh-seeded Cougars – asserting solid midfield pressure and consistently delivering the ball to the front lines for scoring opportunities. Despite the increasingly sloppy conditions as time ran down in the first half, Pinelands seemed comfortable with the pace while Cherry Hill West struggled to keep up.

Eventually, with 6:32 left in the half, Sundermann put Pinelands on the scoreboard when he worked the ball down the left flank, cut back against a CHW defender and sent a bending shot into the far right corner of the goal. The Wildcats took the 1-0 lead into the half, but immediately took control early in the second half.

Just under three minutes into the half, Sundermann sent a through-ball into the penalty area, where sophomore Johnny Hart ran onto it and send a left-footed shot from 12 yards away into the lower right corner as the keeper came out to challenge him. Less than six minutes later, at the 30:39 mark, Sundermann dribbled down the right flank past a defender and then beat the opposing keeper to make it 3-0.

At that point, the center official opted to postpone the contest until the next day. With Pinelands’ field unplayable, the game was switched to the turf field at Central Regional High School. It didn’t matter.

“We talked on the bus about how we needed to finish the mission, come out strong and take control early,” Sundermann said. “We knew they play on turf and probably would come out strong, but we have a lot of guys who prefer to play on turf, so we were fine with it.”

Just 46 seconds into the remainder of the contest, Pinelands struck again. As the Wildcats worked the ball deep into the Cougars’ half, senior Aniello Lubrano took on the right fullback, pushed the ball right and fired a screamer on goal from 15 yards. The keeper made the initial save, but the rebound bounced out into the center of the penalty area, where junior Antony Aguilar hammered another shot from the edge of the box. The ball deflected off a defender’s leg and bounced into the right corner of the goal.

With about 10 minutes left, Cherry Hill West made its only significant offensive push of the half, but the Pinelands defense was up to the task. With 1:58 to go, Sundermann completed a give-and-go with Hart and buried a shot from 12 yards to seal the victory.

On Nov. 1, after the Wildcats had gone down by two goals to third-seeded and two-time defending section champion Mainland – the squad that knocked our Pinelands in the semifinals last season – Sundermann and classmate Anthony Diaz helped the Wildcats equalize in the second half to send the quarterfinals contest into overtime, before Dos Santos delivered the golden goal for the win.

“We’ve really been playing well in the tournament,” Hart said. “Really, we’re just trying to keep this going for the seniors. They deserve a section title, and we’re all trying to do our parts to get it for them.”

Pinelands Girls Lose Shootout
In Quarterfinals

While the boys were busy utilizing overtime to get through the quarterfinals, the Pinelands girls soccer team just missed reaching the semifinals following a penalty-kick-shootout loss to third-seeded Haddon Heights on Nov. 2. The game was scoreless after regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods.

During the shootout, Haddon Heights scored twice while Aileen Cahill scored the Wildcats’ only goal. Pinelands ended its season with an 11-4-3 record.

— David Biggy

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