TUCKERTON - Although the Pinelands boys soccer team is a team made up of mostly underclassmen, the Wildcats are playing like now is their time thanks to the one senior starter who is driving them.

Juniors Dominic Dos Santos and Anthony Diaz scored the goals Wednesday in a landmark 2-1 Shore Conference Tournament win for sixth-seeded Pinelands over No. 11 Long Branch, but the two scorers passed the credit for Pinelands advancing to its first ever SCT quarterfinal round to their senior captain and center fullback Cade Sundermann.

"Everything starts with our captain," Diaz said. "He helps out the younger guys, he organizes everyone in the back, so my hat's off to him. He basically started this program as we know it."

"We want to do this for him," Dos Santos said. "He cares a lot about this program and as the senior captain, this is his team. We want to make him happy and do this for him because he has poured his blood, sweat and tears into this program and we're all better for it."

Sundermann led the defensive effort that limited the Green Wave to one goal on a 25-yard free kick by senior Venancio Fernandes and also assisted the winning goal by Dos Santos in the 23rd minute with a long pass on a quick restart deep in Pinelands' defensive third of the field.

"I like what I've seen from our younger guys a lot," Sundermann said. "They don't give up. They're never satisfied. We probably didn't play our best game today, but we battled and the one time they got a goal, we bounced back and Dom made a great play to give us the lead back."

The Wildcats protected their one-goal lead for the final 67 minutes, aided by Long Branch playing shorthanded for the final 30 following a second yellow card for dissent on center fullback Daniel Santos-Silva. While the Green Wave had a stretch of play during those final 30 minutes in which it kept the ball in the Pinelands side of the field during, the Green Wave never got a clean shot at Pinelands sophomore keeper Logan Johnson.

After the dismissal of Santos-Silva, tensions boiled over in the 62nd minute when an altercation near the Long Branch goal resulted in a shoving exchange between Dos Santos and Green Wave senior defender Mario Galiz that led to both coaching staffs running onto the field to separate the teams.

The teams calmed down after that incident and the Wildcats held off the effort to equalize by Long Branch.

"Today was all about composure," Sundermann said. "It was an emotional game, which is going to happen in a tournament. Coach (Nino Scotto di Carlo) always tells us we have to stay composed, even if there is a fight on the field."

Pinelands grabbed the lead in the ninth minute on a goal by Diaz, who knocked in a flicked headball from Dos Santos that the junior put on frame.

"We know each other well, so I know that far-post run is huge when he is getting his head on the ball like he does," Diaz said. "It's not just me and Dom, either. We all know each other well. I think that's probably one of our greatest strengths as a team."

Long Branch answered in the 21st on a direct kick by Fernandes to the lower left of the goal, only to watch Dos Santos race behind the defense to track down Sundermann's long pass and finish the play for the winning goal two minutes later.

Long Branch put the pressure on from the outset, with Fernandes breaking into the clear in the second minute, only to lose the ball and hit the ground hard on a challenge from Sundermann that the official ruled a clean tackle.

"They are a very good team - very skilled offensively," Sundermann said of Long Branch. "We just had to stay poised and keep our composure. That's been the message from day one. I think that really helped us stay organized throughout the game."

Pinelands' journey to the SCT quarterfinals began last year with a team that finished just one game out of first place in Class B South and won a first-round SCT game against Shore before losing to No. 2 Marlboro, 1-0, in the round of 16.

Sundermann and young brother Kieran, who is the second-leading scorer on the team as a junior, attended the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and finals at Central Regional last year and resolved to reach the semifinals at Ocean Township High School this year as a participant.

If Pinelands can travel to No. 3 Jackson Memorial Friday and get past the Class A South champion Jaguars, Sundermann's vision for his senior year will be a reality.

"It definitely is a very good feeling to be this close, but we're not there yet," Sundermann said. "We're going to focus on the next game and just try to keep doing what we've been doing."


Box Score

Pinelands 2, Long Branch 1

Long Branch (12-5)101
Pinelands (15-1-1)202

Goals (Assists): (LB) Venancio Fernandes (DK) 21'; (P) Anthony Diaz (Dominic Dos Santos) 9', Dominic Dos Santos (Cade Sundermann) 23'
Shots: Long Branch, 10-8
Saves: (LB) Rodolfo Giron 3; (P) Logan Johnson 3


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