The Pinelands Regional High School boys soccer team’s run in the South Jersey Group III tournament came to an end Thursday.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats lost 1-0 to No. 4 Seneca in a sloppy final where field conditions weren’t optimal due to rain earlier in the week.
“Both teams had to deal with it,” said second-year Pinelands coach Nino Scotto di Carlo by phone. “Seneca was a tough team. They were physical and athletic, and we got a little bit dragged into their style, I would say. They played hard.”
Eric Pierre scored the game’s lone goal in the 34th minute. Pinelands turned over the ball in its end, and the Golden Eagles were able to counter with a prime scoring chance. John Meale sent a ball into the box, and Pierre, positioned next to Pinelands goalie Gavin Harris, was able to score.
Harris made five saves for the Wildcats, and Jonah Mikulski made eight for the Golden Eagles.
“We came back,” Scotto di Carlo said about Pinelands’ second-half push. “I thought we regrouped at halftime and played a strong second half. We had a couple of opportunities; a couple mini breakaways that could have had the potential to score.”
Pinelands finished the season 15-5, which included winning a second straight Shore Conference B South regular season title. Thursday was the first sectional final appearance for the Wildcats in 29 years, Scotto di Carlo said.
“I think ultimately it’s a little bit disappointing for the players. They will tell you that,” Scotto di Carlo said. “I’m beyond proud of the team.”
Pinelands’ run included a comeback 3-2 upset over Mainland Regional in the second round. Mainland, the No. 3 seed, was the two-time defending S.J. Group III champion.
“This is something that doesn’t really happen at Pinelands,” Scotto di Carlo said. “I got close as a player there. It’s hard.
“South Jersey Group III is very difficult; you have to win four games to win it.
“I’m very happy with the way our team competed, especially in the playoffs.”