Bulldogs defeat Hornets, 2-1, to win Central Jersey Group II state sectional tournament


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For the first time in program history, the Rumson-Fair Regional High School boys soccer team has been crowned a state sectional tournament champion.

The Bulldogs won the 2021 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II state sectional tournament title in dramatic fashion in a match against Holmdel High School on Nov. 11 in Rumson.

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Junior Alec Pentikis scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 victory over the Hornets. The “Golden Goal” immediately ended the match in the 93rd minute of play.

After scoring the game-winner, Pentikis was in awe of what he had just helped the Bulldogs accomplish.

“I honestly couldn’t believe it at first,” he said. “It was pretty crazy. It took me 20 seconds to settle down and be like, wow, that went in.”

With the win over Holmdel, Rumson-Fair Haven (11-5-3) has advanced to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Group II state tournament and will face Delran on Nov. 16. The winner of the match will play for the Group II state crown.

Winning the program’s first state sectional tournament championship was the type of “fairytale ending” Coach Jeff Soares preached to his players as they entered the tournament.

It was an ending that seemed far off when Soares took over the program in 2019 as the Bulldogs were coming off a one-win season in 2018.

For a coach who wanted to build a “family type” culture and, most importantly, a culture of winning, Soares said he cried tears of joy when he saw Pentikis score the game-winning goal against Holmdel.

“These guys deserve this,” Soares said. “This program. This school. The community. They all deserve this. I was so happy to bring this back to them.”

The Bulldogs and the Hornets played a scoreless 40-minute first half in the state sectional tournament championship match.

After the halftime break, junior Antonio Santos put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0 in the 52nd minute. Senior Luke Pentikis sent a cross into the box and Santos finished the play by scoring his sixth goal of the season.

During four matches in the state sectional tournament, Santos scored two goals and added four assists.

“For me personally, it’s a really great feeling,” Santos said of his performance in the sectional tournament. “It’s awesome.”

In the 61st minute, Holmdel senior Brendan Worobel sent a free kick into the box and sophomore Frankie Brusco put it into the net to tie the score at 1-1.

The score remained tied 1-1 after 80 minutes of regulation time.

The teams would be permitted to play a maximum of two 10-minute overtime periods and the match would end immediately with a goal. If the score remained tied after 100 minutes of play, the match would be decided on penalty kicks.

Neither team scored during the first overtime, sending the match into the second overtime.

The Hornets had a long throw-in during the 92nd minute, but the Bulldogs’ defenders stood tall and were able to clear the ball out of their zone.

A minute later, Alec Pentikis controlled the ball deep in Holmdel’s zone. Looking as if he was going to try to send a cross into the box, Pentikis instead fired a shot that sailed over the hand of goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych and into the net for the game-winning goal that ended the match in the 93rd minute.

“Finding the back of the net is just second nature to me,” Pentikis said. “I’ve done it so many times. It felt great.”

Pentikis leads the Bulldogs with 15 goals in 2021.

Alec’s brother, Luke, a senior captain, said, “For my brother to be the one to score the game-winning goal was really great to see.”

Luke was a member of the 2018 squad that won one match and he was overwhelmed with how far the team has come.

“From where we started to where we are now is just amazing. We wanted to win states. It means everything to us,” he said.

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