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BARNEGAT – It must have seemed like there was a wall blocking the net on Howell’s possessions during Thursday’s state tournament game. Southern Regional junior goalie Tyler Sininsky was that good.

Sininsky was remarkable between the pipes for the Rams, making 17 saves to backstop a suffocating defensive performance that sent fourth-seeded Southern to a 7-2 victory over fifth-seeded Howell in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA South Group 4 playoffs.

The game was played on the turf field at Barnegat High School because of the threat of rain since Southern’s athletic complex is entirely natural grass fields. Southern now advances to the semifinals where it will travel north to face top-seeded Montgomery at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Junior midfielders Ryan Sininsky, Zack Washco and Jake Washco each scored twice to shoulder the offensive load and sophomore attackman Joey DeYoung scored once. Howell junior goalie Colin Fay had a very good game with 10 saves, but the story was on the other side of the field. Sininsky stopped the long shots, the medium-range shots and made a handful of sensational saves on the crease that preserved Southern’s lead.

“He had himself a day today,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “We see that in practice all the time where we run offense and never score on him, so it’s nice to see the other team experience that. He had a couple big saves right on the doorstep when it was a close game. He’s a special kid and he’s a special goalie and we’re lucky to have him.”

“As a goalie, that’s what I live for,” Sininsky said. “Close games, a lot of shots; I made those first two saves, then let one in, but I was on from there. I just felt a spark.”

The defense in front of Sininsky also had an exceptional game in holding a talented Howell offense to just two goals, including only one at even strength. Southern has run a zone defense in the past but has been mostly a man-to-man team this year. The zone returned on Thursday and was nearly perfect.

“At 6-on-6 we were pretty special today,” Pampalone said. “We’ve been working on this (the zone) quite a bit but haven’t run it very often in games. The kids have bought in and they played it to perfection today. We’re a talented man team, too, but Howell has a great offense and is very good in a lot of spots so we thought this would help us slow them down, and it did.”

“I couldn’t ask for anything else from the defense in front of me,” Sininsky said. “We’ve been playing together since we all first picked up a stick so the communication is there. We were fine with them shooting 12 yards and out and anything there I’ll save.”

Zack Washco gave Southern a 1-0 lead 1:21 into the game before Howell tied the score with a goal by junior midfielder Doug MacKenzie. With 3:07 left in the first quarter, Zack Washco scored his second off an assist from Ryan Sininsky to give Southern the lead for good. Throughout the first 12 minutes, Tyler Sininsky was making quality save after quality save and finished the opening quarter with seven tops.

With Howell also employing a zone defense, the offensive pace was deliberate at both ends of the field. Good looks at the net were hard to come by, but Southern was able to cash in on the opportunities it had to extend its lead. Ryan Sininsky executed a long dodge to score and give Southern a 3-1 lead at 5:42 of the second quarter and he then scored his second of the game less than two minutes later to stretch the Rams’ advantage to 4-1 at halftime.

With 5:36 left in the third quarter, DeYoung blasted a shot home for an extra-man opportunity goal that gave Southern a 5-1 lead. With one minute left in the third, Jake Washco found room on a dodge and scored to make it 6-1. While the Rams were extending their lead, Tyler Sininsky was robbing Howell at the other end with some highlight-reel saves right on the crease.

The Rebels finally got another one past Sininsky early in the third quarter when senior attackman James Fay went behind the back for an EMO goal that cut Southern’s lead to 6-2. Howell had a few good possessions after that, but Jake Washco put the game away with a goal at 3:47.

“That’s a big maturity thing for us that we’ve been working on for years, to be able to hold the ball and work for better shots,” Pampalone said. “We’re starting to buy into that and now we just have to put some of those quality chances in the back of the net and stop hitting the goalie with them. We know if we’re going to beat teams like CBA, like Wall, like Montgomery we’re going to need great offensive possessions and hopefully we’ll have that on Saturday.

Now, it’s on to Skillman. The Rams will take the drive up to Somerset County on Saturday morning to face the No. 1-seeded Cougars, the team that eliminated them in the semifinal round during the 2019 season. Southern will be looking to return to a sectional final for the first time since winning the South Group 4 title in 2014.

“Montgomery is a great North Jersey team with a great tradition and they were the ones to knock us out last time,” Pampalone said. “We’re looking forward to another opportunity and hopefully this time we can break through.”



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