Boys Soccer – Point Boro Beats Pinelands for Third Straight B South Title
TUCKERTON - In the years senior Mason Remondelli has been with the Point Pleasant Borough boys soccer team, one of the best parts of each season has been an early-September loss.
As the trend goes, when the Panthers lose once, they don't lose again for a long time.
More than a month since suffering a lopsided loss to Pinelands in its second game of the season, Point Boro got another shot against the Wildcats Monday with the Shore Conference Class B South championship on the line and continued to do what it has done without interruption since that mid-September loss: win.
Sophomore Liam Kirinovic scored the game's lone goal in the sixth minute and senior goalkeeper Tyler Haines made it hold up with a shutout performance in goal as Point Boro pulled out a 1-0 win over Pinelands to capture its third straight outright Class B South title and extend its winning streak to 14. Including a public division title (a second-place overall finish behind Monsignor Donovan) in 2013, the Panthers have won five straight division titles.
"For the four years I've been here, we've had at least a share of the division (title)," said Remondelli, a four-year varsity letter-winner. "It means a lot to me because I when I first started, we had been building those expectations to the point that we expected to win it every year and to leave with another one, especially three straight outright championships, is a really good feeling."
In Point Boro's only loss of its 15-1 season to date, the Panthers fell behind Pinelands 2-0 by halftime and 3-0 within the opening minutes of the second half before ultimately losing, 4-1 at home. The Panthers flipped the script Monday by outworking the hosts over the first 10 minutes, which include Kirinovic's goal.
"Not to make excuses, because Pinelands pretty much put it on us that day, but it's normal for us to take a few games to get things sorted out," Point Boro coach Pete Casalino. "We had some positions to replace from last year and I don't think we were where we wanted to be in terms of our level of play and intensity and we ran into a team that came to beat us."
"We saw that we had to raise our level," Remondelli said. "They came to our field and outplayed us and by the time we scored a goal and got into the flow a little bit, it was too late. Today, we wanted to take the game to them from the first whistle."
Shortly after Pinelands senior Denilson Salgado took the game's first shot, Point Boro earned a throw-in on the right side that senior Matt Kimak quickly sent in toward the near post. Senior Chris Bragan flicked a header toward the front of the goal and after Remondelli pressured a touch by a Pinelands defender, Kirinovic volleyed the ball into the net from close range.
"I know to always be ready on Matt Kimak's throws and Chris Bragen did a great job flicking the ball to the goal," Kirinovic said. "I saw the ball bounce right up in a good spot and I hit it with my left foot."
"During practice, we do the 'Whatever-it-takes drill,'" Remondelli said. "Liam has got to be the kind of the 'Whatever-it-takes drill.' He throws his body around out there and on that goal he just stuck his foot in there and it worked out."
The Panthers kept the pressure up after the goal and junior Jake Brzyski just missed a second Point Boro goal when he hit the far left post with a shot inside the 18-yard box.
Pinelands held possession for the majority of the final 30 minutes of the first half and tested Haines in the 26th minute. Senior Corey Cusack hammered a cross from the right side of the field toward the back left post. Sophomore Dom De Santos squared up a header on frame, but Haines caught it on the dive in the center of the goal.
"It's hard to judge backpedalling when the ball has pace on it," Haines said. "You don't want to dive backwards to save it, so the best bet is to just drop in the net and cut off the angle. If I go up for a 50-50 there and I miss, it's a goal, so I thought if I dropped in and let him get a header, I at least had a chance to save it."
From the 26th on, Haines dominated the box on set pieces and crosses and Pinelands could not turn any of its possession into dangerous opportunities. The Wildcats earned Shore Conference leading scorer Matt O'Connell (28 goals) a free kick late in the first half, but his attempt at the goal sailed just wide of the left post with Haines covering the bar.
O'Connell burned Point Boro for a hat trick in the first meeting between the teams, but the Panthers made a point to crowd him on Monday. Sophomore Alex Herman drew the primary assignment marking him, but was rarely alone in swarming toward him when he got the ball in the attacking third of the field.
"It's 'Barry Bonds Theory': whatever happens, we're not going to let the best player beat us," Casalino said. "He obviously had a big game against us the first time and we were fairly certain that we weren't going to beat them if he had a similar game. Alex Herman did a really nice job staying with him and we just focused on limiting his options and taking certain spots on the field away from him."
Point Boro faced one final test when Kimak drew his second yellow card for a trip in the middle of the field, leaving the Panthers a man down for the final 11:39 of the game. Remondelli dropped from up top to the midfield and Point Boro hunkered down without allowing Pinelands a clean look against Haines.
"That was hard," Kirinovic said. "It's a lot of running in the midfield when you play a man down, but we just had to dig deep and finish the game."
Pinelands was seeking its first division championship since 1989 against a team that has become a mainstay at the top of Class B South. Point Boro has win the division outright in four of the past five years and have put together long winning streaks in each year. This year's run matches a 14-game winning streak in 2014, which came after a 1-2 start to the season. Point Boro also won nine straight at one point last year and 10 in a row back in 2012.
This year's turnaround began with Bragen moving to the stopper back position and was accompanied by a move for Remondelli from midfield to a forward spot.
"That's been the constant these last few years is when we've lost a game, we've changed some things in our lineup and it has helped," Casalino said. "I don't mess around too much with formations - we pretty much look at it like 10 guys attack when we have the ball and 10 guys defend when we don't.
"I don't know, maybe I'm just not a very good coach for the first few weeks of the season. Fortunately we seem to figure it out after a few tries."
Point Boro 1, Pinelands 0
|Point Boro (15-1, 13-1)||1||0||1|
|Pinelands (13-3, 12-2)||0||0||0|
Goal (Assist): (PB) Liam Kirinovic (Chris Bragen) 6'
Shots: Pinelands, 7-5
Saves: (PB) Tyler Haines 2; (P) Brian Kelleher 1