Pinelands Regional Boys Soccer Team Dealt Tough Loss by Undefeated Holmdel

By David Biggy | Oct 02, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands senior Creed Nass works the ball into the penalty area for a scoring chance during the Wildcats’ 3-1 loss to undefeated Holmdel on Sept. 28.

Little Egg Harbor — For 54 minutes on Sept. 28, the Pinelands Regional boys soccer team looked like one of the best teams in the Shore Conference. However, high school soccer matches are 80 minutes.

“We have a very good team, but there’s a reason the game’s 80 minutes,” said head coach Nino Scotto di Carlo, after his Wildcats lost a 3-1 contest to Holmdel, the undefeated team many consider the best team in the Shore Conference. “If you want to make a run in the Shore Conference or state tournaments, you have to play a complete 80 minutes. We’re struggling with that right now.”

Pinelands (4-2-1) gave the Hornets (11-0) fits throughout the first half, dominating play through the midfield for most of the first 40 minutes, while the defense continually shut down opposing forwards’ runs and allowed only a couple of shots on goal. Meanwhile, the offense generated multiple chances to put the ball in the back of the net.

Senior forwards Logan Johnson and Creed Nass just missed on scoring attempts during the 10th and 15th minutes, respectively, while junior midfielder Johnny Hart set up junior midfielder Nate Szwed a bit later in the half. Eventually, the Wildcats cracked the vaunted Holmdel defense, which had allowed just nine goals through its first 10 victories.

After a foul set up Pinelands about 35 yards from goal, sophomore defender James Cahill delivered a beautiful service into the penalty area, where Hart got his head on the ball and stuck it into the goal from 9 yards away, giving the Wildcats the initial lead with 4:50 left in the half.

At halftime, Pinelands appeared to have control of the game, with the Hornets reeling and looking for answers. Through the first 13 minutes, despite sustained pressure from the Holmdel offense, the Wildcats continued to thwart their opponents at every turn.

But that changed with just over 26 minutes to go, when Pinelands gave up a corner kick and the Hornets’ Jack Giamanco capitalized on the miscue, getting a touch on the service just in front of a diving Gavin Harris and tying the contest at 1-1. From there, the Wildcats simply unraveled.

Almost 10 minutes later, as Holmdel continued to ramp up its offensive pressure, resulting in numerous scoring chances, Giamanco poked a ball with his right foot toward goal that was misplayed by Harris and ultimately bounced past the goal line to give Holmdel the lead for good.

“We played a solid 60 minutes, but that’s not good enough against the best team in the Shore Conference,” di Carlo said. “That second goal was terrible, and then we found ourselves scrambling around, trying to get the game back.”

Giamanco made sure that didn’t happen when he delivered a shot from 17 yards on a semi-breakaway with 11:18 left, while the Hornets’ defense clamped down and allowed Pinelands very little in the way of offensive progress during the final 10 minutes.

“I’m not going to stand here and say we’re better than Holmdel,” di Carlo said. “We just had the lead with 54 minutes left and lost 3-1, so we’re obviously not better. Today we relinquished control of the game. Instead of keeping our heads in it and playing better, our guys stood around feeling sorry for themselves after the first goal. If we want to consider ourselves one of the top teams in the conference, we have to have better results against the better teams.”

Still, a 4-2-1 record at the midway point of the season isn’t terrible, considering the Wildcats’ other loss was a 3-1 defeat against another of the conference’s better squads, Jackson Memorial, at the outset of the season on Sept. 3. Earlier in the week, on Sept. 24, Pinelands tied Shore Conference Class B South foe Barnegat, 1-1, on a goal by Szwed, keeping the Wildcats in the hunt for a third straight division title.

“There’s plenty of season left, for sure,” di Carlo said. “I hope this teaches our guys that they have to play a good 80 minutes every day. You can’t make unforced errors and keep giving teams chances due to fouls, or the good teams are going to punish you every time. We have to be more disciplined.”

— David Biggy

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