State Tournament Soccer

Pinelands Regional Girls Soccer Team Finds Scoring Touch in Second Half to Beat Barnegat in State Tourney

By David Biggy | Oct 30, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands Regional’s Aileen Cahill sends a pass forward during the Wildcats’ 4-0 win over Barnegat in their first-round contest of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II tournament on Oct. 28.

Little Egg Harbor — Almost five weeks prior to its opener in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II first-round contest on Oct. 28, the Pinelands Regional High School girls soccer team walked onto Barnegat’s field and dismantled the Bengals’ defense, taking a 4-0 lead by halftime, and never looked back en route to a 6-0 victory. But something was different on Monday when the Bengals visited the Wildcats.

“I think everybody was overly confident,” said senior goalkeeper Brenna DeVoe, who recorded five saves for her 20th career shutout during the Wildcats’ 4-0 victory. “The first half was a little rough. I think we expected to come out a lot harder on them than we did. But we pulled it together, a lot, in the second half. It looked like we started communicating and trusting each other more.”

In contrast to the teams’ first meeting on Sept. 24 – when, at the time, Pinelands snapped Barnegat’s six-game winning streak to start the season – the Wildcats didn’t put together much offense in the first half, taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission thanks to a fluke goal by Sunni DiElmo, who early in the game sent a corner kick toward goal. It somehow managed to bounce in after Barnegat keeper Angelica Laudati got her hands on it.

“We thought we could just come in today and beat them like we did last time,” DiElmo said. “But they came in playing 10 times harder, and we weren’t ready for it. Coach wasn’t happy with how we were playing and told us we had to pick it up because they were outworking us and seemed to want it more.”

The fifth-seeded Wildcats (13-3) picked it up, eventually. With 34:16 left, Bridget Dudas delivered a shot from the left side of the penalty area for a goal to make it 2-0. About seven minutes later, a cross from Aileen Cahill to the left side of the box was retrieved by DiElmo, who then made a turn on the defender and scorched a shot into the far upper corner for a three-goal lead. Cahill struck again with just under five minutes, when she dribbled around several defenders in the penalty area before sending a hard grounder past a diving Laudati to cap the scoring.

In the meantime, the 12th-seeded Bengals (9-10) plugged away, occasionally moving the ball deep into Pinelands’ half of the field , but their scoring opportunities dwindled after the clock ticked down under the 10-minute mark.

“Pinelands is one of the best teams we’ve faced all season, and they have a lot more experience than we do,” said Barnegat coach Rick Blasi. “The first time we played them, we came out scared and nervous, and the score showed it. Today we were ready for them, but it’s hard to play a team with the level of talent they have at their forward positions. We spent a lot of time playing defense.”

And when Pinelands needed its defense, the Wildcats kept things in check.

“My defenders are amazing,” DeVoe said. “Nothing I accomplish would happen without them. We’re all very close and communicate well with each other. I’m glad they accept me and how crazy I am. They’re awesome.”

The shutout – the team’s sixth of the season – sent Pinelands into the quarterfinals to meet fourth-seeded Delran, a 3-0 winner over 13th-seeded Middle Township, on Oct. 31, with the winner likely to face top-seeded Haddonfield early next week.

“This was a wake-up call for us,” DiElmo said. “We have to play the way we’re supposed to. We know we can beat the teams we’re going to face later in the tournament, but we have to play our best every game. Good teams are going to counter on our mistakes, so we have to play better.”

Southern Regional Girls Ousted;
Barnegat, Southern Boys Move On

While the Pinelands girls moved on to the quarterfinals, the Southern Regional girls came up short of advancing past the first round, dropping a 5-1 decision to fourth-seeded Shawnee in the South Jersey Group IV sectional on Oct. 28. The 13th-seeded Rams (7-7-1) trailed at the half, 2-1, thanks to a goal by Brookelle Kline, but the Renegades poured in three second-half goals to advance, despite Southern goalkeeper Lindsey Selert’s 11 saves.

Speaking of advancement, two of the three local boys soccer teams scored victories in their first-round matchups on Oct. 29 to move on to their respective sectional quarterfinals.

In South Jersey Group IV, fifth-seeded Southern knocked off 13th-seeded Williamstown, 3-2, after the teams were tied, 2-2, following regulation and the Rams (13-3-1) outscored the Braves 2-1 on penalty kicks. After Kerem Satar and Kevin Kiernan scored in regulation, John Paul Prosperi and Jimmy Winn buried PKs to send Southern into the quarterfinals, where it will meet Jackson Memorial on Friday, Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, Matt White’s first-half goal, assisted by Justin Gomez, helped seventh-seeded Barnegat (11-6-1) get by 10th-seeded Sterling, 1-0, in South Jersey Group II. The Bengals will play either second-seeded Oakcrest or 15th-seeded Haddon Heights.

In a rematch of last year’s sectional final, sixth-seeded Pinelands was bounced by 11th-seeded Seneca, 1-0, in South Jersey Group III, ending the Wildcats' season at 8-4-1.

— David Biggy

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