By Jim Hague
When Annemarie Sacco took over the Harrison High School girls’ soccer program last year, she knew that it would take just a little bit of work.
“We wanted to start building the program in the right direction,” Sacco said. “Harrison had never been really known for its girls’ soccer team, so we wanted the girls to get really interested in the sport. We encouraged them to play in outside leagues, anything to get them more involved.”
Sacco’s message hit home, because several of her players went on to play for club teams in the spring and summer, gaining more and more experience every time they laced up the cleats.
“We’ve definitely made some positive strides,” said Sacco, who guided the Blue Tide to a 7-12 record last year. “The girls love playing soccer. They came back for preseason and they were ready to play. You could tell right away that they had much better skills and a better understanding of the game.”
Sacco is encouraged because her roster is mainly comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
“It’s definitely competitive,” Sacco said. “We had 43 girls come out, so this is the first year that we’re making cuts. Last year, we started with numbers similar to this, but after a week, many of them left. This year, they’ve stayed with us, so it shows that they really have the interest. I think it’s great. We can keep working with these girls and really build the program.”
Leading the way for the Blue Tide is junior goalkeeper Meribeth Carias.
Carias was the starter in goal last year and had a fine campaign.
“She’s doing well there,” Sacco said. “I basically had to force her into the position last year, because she didn’t want to do it. But I knew she could do it. Now, she’s more comfortable and confi dent in goal and she’s going to step up this year as a leader.”
The sweeper is senior D.J. Droz, who played on the junior varsity level last year.
“She’s very quick and that’s the reason why we put her at sweeper,” Sacco said. “I like her speed and aggressive play.”
Junior Viri Diana is the Blue Tide’s stopper.
“She does a great job, because she has so much more passion for the game,” Sacco said. “She plays soccer all year round and it shows. She has great footwork.”
Freshman Eva Kiss, who is the sister of goalkeeper Carias, is another defender.
“She’s fitting in right away,” Sacco said. “She’s quick and she has good skill.”
Senior Stephanie Garcia is another defender. She also makes the step up from the junior varsity.
The Blue Tide’s midfield play is strong, thanks to the efforts of two talented sophomores.
Katherin Merino was a forward last year, but she’s been moved to center midfield this season. Merino was the Blue Tide’s leading scorer last year with 10 goals.
“I felt like we needed more control in the middle of the field, so we moved Katherin there,” Sacco said. “It has worked well.”
Fellow sophomore Chelsea Uribe is another who spent the off-season playing at a higher level.
“She played in the Ironbound League in Newark throughout the spring and summer and it’s really helped her a lot,” Sacco said. “She’s one of our best players.”
A pair of returning seniors, Ashley Castillo and Yulissa Pereyra, are also solid midfielders.
“We have a very good mix in the midfield,” Sacco said.
The forwards are sophomore Carmen Marin, who has made a big improvement in her play. Marin scored two goals last year as a freshman. Sacco believes those numbers will dramatically improve this year.
The other forward is sophomore Cindy Pasos, who didn’t play at all last year, but has made an impact this season.
“She has a great shot and she’s very quick to the ball,” Sacco said.
The Blue Tide opens the season Sept. 7 against Leonia.
“We’re definitely improved,” Sacco said. “We have good chemistry, so that’s a plus. We have created a family feeling with each other and I really think that’s going to help. We have more skilled players than we’ve had. I think we can definitely improve. Let’s see what happens.