By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Amanda Nowak was perfectly fine with being a midfielder – or so we thought.
The Lyndhurst High School junior soccer standout had spent the first two years with the Golden Bears as a playmaking midfielder, a player with a monstrously strong leg who can make strong passes and solid crosses from all over the field.
But after a few games, Lyndhurst head coach Kim Hykey had to make some changes in her lineup.
“I knew coming into the season that I was going to need Amanda and Grace (Tomko) to share the load of the scoring,” Hykey said. “They were going to be the ones to help with the void of scoring we lost with graduation. As a midfielder, Amanda was being too unselfish. She was passing the ball all the time. I told her that she had to stop passing and shoot it herself, that she had to be the one to take charge and do some of the scoring on her own.”
At that point, Hykey realized a way to get Nowak to stop passing _ by moving her from midfield to forward.
“She said that she was willing to do whatever it took to help the team,” Hykey said. “We weren’t scoring and she was always looking to pass, so this was a move that I thought was the best thing for the team.”
In reality, Nowak didn’t mind the move one bit.
“I was kind of wishing and hoping for it,” Nowak said. “I was pretty excited about it. I’ve played midfield throughout high school and I’ve gotten used to it, but I’m a forward on my club team (the New Jersey Freedom). I really didn’t mind where I played, because I just like playing soccer. But I am comfortable at being a forward.”
Nowak certainly looks as if she’s always been a forward, because since Hykey made the move, Nowak has turned into a goal-scoring machine.
Nowak scored one goal in her first game up front against Cresskill, then had three goals against Queen of Peace and capped her week by tallying four goals in a 7-1 win over rival Secaucus.
“She had eight goals in her first three games at forward,” Hykey said. “Not bad.”
For her efforts, Nowak has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Hykey said that she had faith in Nowak as a goal scorer.
“I guess I’m pleasantly surprised,” Hykey said. “I knew she had the ability to score goals. She’s our best finisher. It’s not just that she has a strong leg and a good shot, but she’s very smart. She’s our truest soccer player, so she understands the game.”
Nowak is a soccer player, through and through. She only plays soccer, taking part in the sport all year long. A lot of the other players on the Lyndhurst roster participate in other varsity sports.
“I just play soccer,” Nowak said. “It’s my sport.”
Nowak said she felt fine at forward from the start.
“I felt comfortable there,” Nowak said. “But I never thought I’d score four goals in a game. That’s amazing.”
In fact, there have been very few Lyndhurst girls’ soccer players to get four in a game. It used to be a rule that once a player scored three, they had to come out of the game. But Nowak joins two others who have scored four in the last 15 years _ teammate Tomko, who accomplished the feat last year, and coach Hykey, who remains the all-time leading goal scorer in the school’s history.
“It’s very rare,” Hykey added.
“I’m in pretty good company,” Nowak said. “I love playing forward with Grace. We work out well together. I actually like playing forward more.”
That’s because everyone loves a goal scorer in soccer – and every soccer player likes to have the chance to score a goal.
“Oh, yeah, that’s definitely a great feeling,” Nowak said.
Nowak is hopeful that her goal barrage will give her the attention needed to become a college player. After all, she’s only a junior, so the college offers will have to wait a little while.
“But I want to be more competitive, go to the showcases where the college coaches are,” Nowak said. “Hopefully, it will lead to some opportunities.”
Nowak also showed diversity by scoring one of her four goals with the left foot. No one can question the ferocity of her right foot, but if she shows the ability to use both feet, it will enhance her chances to play on the next level.
“It definitely feels good getting four,” Nowak said. “I am still amazed. I never thought I’d do that. My left foot is getting better, but it’s not as good as the right. I’m working on it.”
Hykey believes that Nowak will remain a part of the Golden Bears’ front line.
“I think it depends on the games and where we need her,” Hykey said. “Like if we have a big game and we get a lead, I may move her back to the midfield to handle the ball.”
But Hykey likes Nowak’s future.
“If she works hard and dedicates herself to the game, the sky’s the limit,” Hykey said. “She’s that good.”
“I think that’s the goal,” Nowak said. “I want to work hard to get better. I can’t rest on one game.”
But it certainly was a game to remember.