State Tournament Soccer

Southern Regional Boys Soccer Team Ousted by Jackson Memorial in State Tourney

By David Biggy | Nov 06, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern goalkeeper Kayce Bennet makes a save during the first half of the Rams’ 3-0 loss to Jackson Memorial in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals on Nov. 1.

Stafford Township — Despite falling on the wrong side of a 3-0 shutout to Shore Conference Class A South rival Jackson Memorial in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV tournament on Nov. 1, Ben Hanneman was proud of the Southern Regional boys soccer team.

“I’m not mad at my teammates,” said the senior defender, the only player to speak at length during the team’s post-game gathering. “Sure, we lost 3-0 and didn’t advance to the next round of the state tournament, but we just had the least amount of losses and conceded the least amount of goals in a season. We had a great season.”

Hanneman was spot on. The Rams finished 13-4-1, allowed 11 goals and didn’t give up more than a goal in three of their four losses. In their three losses prior to the final game of the season, they literally lost by a goal – one each in regulation against Jackson and Lacey during the regular season and the third by way of penalty-kick shootout to Manasquan in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. That’s how close Southern was to being unbeaten heading into its match against the Jaguars.

“This program is going places,” Hanneman said. “In the past, we’ve never been able to take down the big dogs – the Shawnees, the Long Branches, teams like those ... in Monmouth County and out of the conference. This year, we not only took them down but beat them by at least two or three goals, so that was nice.

“In the past, the team captains would let the guys around them quit on games. But this group of guys doesn’t quit. We go full games and keeping playing until the final whistle. We’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to do business. That’s what this season was about.”

Unfortunately, the fifth-seeded Rams did little business in the offensive end of the field against the fourth-seeded Jaguars, who used their size and physical style of play to carry the play for most of the contest. Southern mustered a couple of corner kicks in the first half but trailed Jackson, 1-0, at the half, after Tyler Howlett scored when he headed in a throw-in which ended up bouncing into the penalty area during the 13th minute.

In the second half, Southern barely managed a shot on goal, which came during the last third of the half when junior Kevin Kiernan somehow got to a bouncing ball between a pair of defenders and softly touched it into the hands of the opposing goalkeeper. Otherwise, all the scoring action belonged to the Jaguars, who received a goal from Gianluca Gruosso during the 58th minute, before Connor Lucas sent a 35-yard free kick into the net a few minutes later.

“They’re big and physical, and they have a lot of seniors,” Hanneman said. “Kevin is our attack, but we can’t rely on him to be our only guy attacking up front. Jackson used their size and physical play to their advantage. They bang and go, and we just don’t play soccer that way.”

Barnegat Boys Bounced By Oakcrest

Southern wasn’t the only local boys’ team to see its season ended in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, as Barnegat dropped a 5-1 contest against second-seeded Oakcrest on Nov. 1. The seventh-seeded Bengals’ only goal came late in the first half when Connor Costello buried the ball into the net.

Still, the Falcons (17-3-1) took a 3-1 lead into halftime, then tacked on two more goals to seal the victory and move on to the semifinals to face third-seeded Manasquan. Barnegat finished 11-7-1.

Pinelands Girls Fall in Semifinals

For the Pinelands Regional girls soccer team, a possible state sectional title had to go through top-seeded Haddonfield on Nov. 4. Wildcats goalkeeper Brenna DeVoe did everything she could to prevent the Bulldogs from advancing to the final, but despite 13 saves, Haddonfield had too much offense, scoring a 5-0 victory. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell behind, 2-0, by halftime, and the Bulldogs (16-4-2) poured on three more in the second half, ending the Wildcats’ season at 14-4.

On Oct. 31, the Wildcats upended fourth-seeded Delran in the quarterfinals. The two teams were tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation and overtime, before Pinelands won, 4-3, in a penalty-kick shootout. DeVoe made eight saves during the contest. Senior Aileen Cahill scored her 18th goal of the season, assisted by junior Sunni DiElmo.

— David Biggy

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