Pinelands Finds Last Minute Soccer Magic to Edge Lakewood

HEADED FOR WIN: Pinelands junior James Cahill is mobbed by teammates after he headed in the eventual game-winning goal against Lakewood on Nov. 9. (Photo by David Biggy)
Sometimes a win doesn’t always look like a win. At least, that was the message, laced with fury, Pinelands Regional boys soccer coach Nino Scotto de Carlo gave to his squad after a 4-3 victory over Shore Conference Class B South rival Lakewood on Nov. 9.
“We’re good, but we have to go out every game and show it,” said junior midfielder James Cahill, who scored the game-winner with 14.1 seconds left, sending in a header from 10 yards off a service from Adam Grelak. “Our coach is right. We haven’t been playing our best lately. It’s good we pulled out the win today, but we have to reflect on some things and get better.”
The Wildcats (10-1-1) – who lost for the first time this season in a 2-1 contest against Point Pleasant Borough on Nov. 2 – played great through October, giving up just one goal through their first eight games on the way to a 7-0-1 start. However, including the loss to the Panthers, Pinelands has allowed eight goals during its last four contests.
“We’ve been giving up too many goals,” Cahill said. “We have to communicate better and some of us have to get back and play defense a bit more, myself included.”
Pinelands’ Adam Grelak serves a free kick into the penalty area during the Wildcats’ 4-3 win over Lakewood on Nov. 9. Grelak had two assists. (Photo by David Biggy)
For most of the first half, the Wildcats looked solid, scoring twice during a span of just over two minutes to grab a 2-0 lead. The first goal was delivered by a strike from Stephen DiMileo from 16 yards away with 10:16 left in the half, followed by Cahill’s first of the game with 8:06 off an assist from Johnny Hart.
However, the Piners managed a goal extremely late in the first half, when a Pinelands player fell on the ball within the penalty area, resulting in a direct kick from some 12 yards away. Christian Jimenez scorched the ball past goalkeeper Gavin Harris with just two seconds on the clock, giving Lakewood a spark it carried through the second half.
The Piners tied the contest at 2-2 just 3:11 into the second half on a free kick, but Pinelands answered 20 minutes later when a Grelak corner kick was one-timed into the near side by DiMileo. Still, Lakewood continued to pressure the Wildcats’ defense, carrying much of the play through the midfield and generating several offensive spurts in Pinelands’ half of the field.
Eventually, the Piners again tied the game with 8:35 left, when Jimenez sent a well-placed arching shot over Harris, who had tried to recover after punching away a service from the right side and fell over one of his defenders doing so. As Harris got to his feet, Jimenez already had sent the ball toward the goal from 20 yards out.
As the teams battled through the next seven minutes – the sun already below the horizon and light fading quickly – the Wildcats mustered one last offensive push with under a minute to go. After a corner kick yielded nothing, Hart corralled the ball and drew a foul by one of Lakewood’s midfielders. With 20 seconds left, Grelak quickly lined up an indirect kick and sent the ball into the penalty area. Cahill timed his jump perfectly and redirected the ball into the upper right corner.
“In the first half, I thought we possessed the ball very well and had control of the game,” Cahill said. “In the second half, we got sloppy. We have to play better. We have to be more consistent and stop the unforced errors. We’re in a position to win B South for a fourth year in a row, but we have to step it up a little bit.”
Against Manchester on Nov. 5, Nate Szwed delivered the game-winner in overtime during a 2-1 victory over the Hawks, during which Hart scored a goal and Harris managed 10 saves to help preserve the win. Szwed and Hart assisted on each other’s goals. In a 4-2 win over the Hawks two days earlier, Hart scored twice while Cahill and DiMileo each buried goals. Hart also had a pair of assists.
Pinelands had one more regular-season game left to play, against Lakewood on Nov. 11, before entering the postseason. Without a typical NJSIAA state sectional tournament this year, the Wildcats were seeded second in the Central East Group D tourney to close out the season. They await the winner of seventh-seeded Ocean and 10th-seeded Neptune for a quarterfinals contest at home on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Southern Boys
Score Big Win
After suffering its first loss of the season on Oct. 28, the Southern Regional boys soccer team needed an outstanding effort against Toms River North on Nov. 9 to have a shot at playing for the Shore Conference Class A South title on Nov. 11. Some six minutes into overtime, Kevin Kiernan delivered the game-winner in a 4-3 triumph.
The Rams (12-1) took the lead when John Paul Prosperi scored off a throw-in during the 33rd minute. The Mariners (11-1) scored twice during the first 10 minutes to grab the lead, 2-1, but a Kiernan penalty kick equalized during the 60th minute. After Prosperi converted on a Brandon Notte free kick a few minutes later, North again tied the contest with a goal during the 70th minute.
Despite being outshot during the final minutes of regulation, Southern pushed North into overtime, where Kiernan found space amid several defenders and sent the game-winner into the bottom right corner of the goal. This set up a regular-season-ending clash with the Mariners for the A South title on Wednesday, weather permitting. Southern hasn’t won A South since coach Guy Lockwood’s playing days about 30 years ago.
Interestingly, the Rams and Mariners may meet again at the end of next week as the two embark on the NJSIAA Central East Group G tourney. North, the top seed, and Southern, the second seed, have first-round byes. The Rams will meet the winner of seventh-seeded Middletown South and 10th-seeded Manalapan on Tuesday, Nov. 17. If Southern gets out of the semifinals on Nov. 19, the Rams could see North on Nov. 21 for the section championship.
Southern Field Hockey
Undefeated, Now Top Seed
While securing the Shore Conference Class A South field hockey title last week, Southern Regional also was awarded the top seed for the NJSIAA Central East Group D sectional tournament.
After knocking off Toms River South, 4-0, on Nov. 3, the Rams on Nov. 5 again defeated the Indians, this time 2-0, to win the division crown. Ella DiPietro and Cuinn Deely buried the only two goals Southern needed during the third and fourth periods for the win. On Nov. 9, Southern cruised to a 4-1 victory over Brick Memorial. DiPietro tallied two goals, while Shannon Conroy and Bella English each scored once to help improve Southern’s record to 13-0.
The Rams have one more regular-season contest, against Brick Memorial, before entering the postseason with a quarterfinals clash with ninth-seeded South Brunswick on Tuesday, Nov. 17. Another victory in the semifinals on Nov. 19 would send Southern to the final on Saturday, Nov. 21, where the Rams could meet either second-seeded Toms River North or third-seeded Monroe.
Meanwhile, the Barnegat and Pinelands field hockey squads earned the third and fourth seeds, respectively, for this year’s Central East Group B sectional tourney. The Bengals (9-2-1) await the winner of a first-round matchup between sixth-seeded Ocean Township and 11th-seeded Matawan for a quarterfinals clash on Nov. 17, and the Wildcats (8-2-1) are slated to meet the first-round winner between fifth-seeded Summit and 12th-seeded Jackson Liberty on Nov. 17 as well. Victories for each squad will send them to the semifinals on Nov. 19.
Sectional Tourney Seeds
Settled for Girls Soccer
With the regular season ending this week for all the local soccer teams, the Southern, Barnegat and Pinelands girls each received their seeds and first-round spots for the upcoming sectional tournaments.
In Central East Group B, Barnegat received the ninth seed and will face eighth-seeded Manasquan in the first round, slated for Monday, Nov. 16, with the winner to face top-seeded Wall on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Pinelands was given the 11th seed for the same group and will play at sixth-seeded Governor Livingston in the first round. The winner will meet either third-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven or 14th-seeded Monmouth Regional in the quarterfinals.
In Central East Group F, Southern was given the eight seed and will host ninth-seeded Brick Memorial on Monday, Nov. 16, with the winner set to face top-seeded Toms River North in the quarterfinals on Nov. 18.
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