BAYVILLE - The players on the Point Pleasant Boro boys soccer team who were starters last year must be beginning to think there is a script to a Panthers soccer season.

Facing the only team to beat them this season, the Panthers continued their winning ways by jumping out to an early lead Monday and holding on to beat Central Regional, 2-1, for their eighth straight win since losing to the Golden Eagles on Sept. 15.

Last season, Point Boro started the season 1-2 and following its second loss of the season to Central, the Panthers ripped off 14 straight wins. Monday's win puts Point Boro two wins ahead of both Central and Donovan Catholic through nine games in the Class B South division race and past the halfway point of the 14-game winning streak the Panthers authored last season.

Senior Sam Monaco scored one of Point Boro's two goals Monday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"Like a lot of coaches, I tend to try to give a positive spin when we lose and a negative spin when we lose," Point Boro coach Pete Casalino said. "After that loss, I asked them, 'Who can tell me what happened the last time we lost to Central? We won 14 games in a row.' I thought it was a positive note to an otherwise lousy day and it's just a reminder that it's a long season and there's always a chance to get better."

Senior Sam Monaco opened the scoring seven minutes into the game with a penalty kick to the lower left corner. Central goalkeeper Tom Ruscitti was the last man between the ball and the goal and took down Ryan Griffith in the box to force the penalty.

The Panthers pushed the lead to 2-0 in the 26th on a sequence that ended with senior Mason Pitts heading in a cross from senior Nick DeCurtis. Sophomore Jacob Kirinovic split two Golden Eagles defenders before touching a pass off to DeCurtis on the right side of the box. DeCurtis crossed the ball to the opposite post, where Pitts drilled a header back to the right corner of the goal.

"In the huddle before the game, I let the guys know that we outplayed them the first game," Monaco said. "We were in their half for the entire second half and today, we needed to bring that same energy from the beginning and we came out strong."

Monaco created two other quality scoring chances in the first half, including a shot from 25 yards that Ruscitti punched over the crossbar with a leaping stab that momentarily kept the score 1-0. The Panthers senior later dribbled half the field to the goal and unleashed a close-range shot outside the near right post.

Central senior Shan Cranstoun chopped the Point Boro lead in half with a textbook strike from 25 yards two minutes into the second half. After a clearance out of the box bounced away from the 18-yard box, Cranstoun lined up a one-timed volley that dipped under the crossbar and inside the left post as goalkeeper Tyler Haines could do nothing more than watch.

After Point Boro dominated 50-50 balls, possession and the shot tally in the first half, the Golden Eagles began the second half a rejuvenated team.

"They definitely possessed the ball better in the second half and it seemed like they played with a little more urgency," Monaco said. "Coach always says there is going to be a 10-to-15 minute period where they are going to attack us and we're going to have to defend for our lives and that's what we had to do."

The Golden Eagles' best chance to tie the game came in the 60th minute, when senior Jake Dufner ripped a 12-yard shot that glanced off crossbar.

Three minutes later, Ruscitti preserved the one-goal deficit by making a diving save on a point-blank, one-timed shot out of the air by Monaco. Junior Mason Remondelli crossed the ball from the left side to the middle, where Monaco struck it out of the air from right in front of the net. Ruscitti made a diving save to his left to once again deny Monaco.

Point Boro rode out the final 17 minutes to nail down their eighth straight win in the form of a revenge victory over the Golden Eagles, who beat the Panthers, 2-1, in the first meeting between the teams. Since that loss, Point Boro has made a collection of lineup changes, most notably switching from a flat back line to a stopper-sweeper formation with junior Nick Duda at sweeper. Casalino also moved Monaco from striker to the central midfield.

"Sam is a presence wherever he plays, and having him in the midfield allows us to possess the ball more and control that part of the field a little better," Casalino said. "We also started flat in the back because the kids we had were more comfortable with that and after the loss, I said, 'Forget about that. We're going to play the way I want.'"

The Panthers still have a ways to go to match last season's 14-game winning streak, but that is not the ultimate concern for Casalino and his players. Point Boro lost one-goal decisions in both the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II and Shore Conference Tournaments, both on its home field.

"Our two main philosophies are than offensively, we want to attack with pace and defensively, we want to put pressure on the ball," Casalino said. "If we can do that, we're going to be in every game. Nobody is going to blow us out. So if we get a game where we are clicking offensively, like we were in the first half today, we are going to be tough to beat."

Box Score

Point Boro 2, Central 1

1

2

F

Point Boro (10-1, 8-1)

2

0

2

Central (6-2-2, 6-2-1)

0

1

1

Goals (Assists): (PB) Sam Monaco (PK) 7’, Mason Pitts (Nick DeCurtis) 26’; (C) Shane Cranstoun 42’
Shots: Point Boro, 20-10
Saves: (PB) Tyler Haines 4; (C) Tom Ruscitti 8