By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The North Arlington High School softball team won only seven games in 2012. That number is bound to improve this season, despite the Vikings’ tough 0-3 start.
“To be very honest, we were not an athletic team last year,” said veteran North Arlington head softball coach John Galante. “We had young pitching and we didn’t hit the ball.”
But Galante is optimistic about his team’s prospects.
“We’re catching the ball a lot better and the pitching is sound,” Galante sad. “We’re also hitting the ball better. I really think we’re going to have a good season. I think there’s also a change in attitude. We’re not complacent about losing. The attitude had to change. Losing was not acceptable. It was a young team and they’re still buying into the program.”
Galante was encouraged by the preseason turnout. There were 26 freshmen who came out for the NA softball program, so for the first time going back to the mid 1990s, North Arlington will field a freshman team.
“We have a great group of girls,” Galante said. “The freshmen are very enthusiastic. They want to play and they’re having a great time doing it. It’s a great, positive feeling I’m getting from all the girls. I’m very encouraged by that.”
Leading the returnees is junior right-handed pitcher Tanna Avella.
“She’s improved a great deal,” said Galante of Avella, who was the team’s primary pitcher a year ago. “She’s worked on her change-up and she’s improved that pitch. She’s worked on her drop. I have high expectations that she will do well.”
Galante also has sophomore Taylor Barth to throw if needed. Barth is an excellent athlete who will play first base when she’s not pitching.
The catcher is senior Katie Rouski, who is a four-year varsity player. Rouski has really developed into a fine catcher and there’s never been a problem with the way Rouski hits the ball.
“She’s also become more of a leader for us,” Galante said. “She’s played a lot of positions for us over the years, catching, outfield and third base, but she’s the catcher now and she’s doing a good job.”
Barth and Avella will alternate at first base, depending upon who is pitching.
The second baseman is sophomore Ashley Meyers, who saw plenty of time with the varsity last year.
Freshman Marissa Piscal is the Vikings’ shortstop.
“Marissa is excellent in the field,” Galante said. “She’s our No. 3 hitter. I’m telling you, she’s the best all-around player we’ve had in years.”
Another freshman, Samantha Veloso, is holding fort at third base.
“Sam is doing fine at third,” Galante said. “They’re the best we have, so they’re going to play right away.”
Junior Theresa Capo is the left fielder. Capo played a considerable amount last year for the Vikings.
Junior Tara Dlugo is the team’s centerfielder. Dlugo, another of the school’s multi-talented athletes, is a good leader.
“She helps Katie a lot,” Galante said about the team leadership role.
Junior Angelica Asuzano and sophomore Carly Austin are sharing the right field duties.
Senior Christina Manago is a reserve first baseman/ outfielder who will crack the lineup and freshman Victoria Namnama is a utility infielder who will also see time.
“Victoria is quick and can hit pretty well,” Galante said. “They’re all going to get playing time. Everyone plays.”
But can the Vikings win?
“I would think so,” Galante said. “I think we’re much improved. We have too much athleticism and talent to fail. We’ve changed the culture of the team by the way we think and the way we play.”
Now, hopefully, the course will change when the schedule lightens up a bit.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people when we knock off one of the good teams,” said Galante, whose team has already lost to Saddle Brook, Becton Regional and Union City thus far. “We’re playing the bigger schools because we think we’re better.”
It’s now up to the Vikings to prove that they are indeed better.