By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The North Arlington High School girls’ soccer team won only four games in 2012, but that number is certainly going to change this season.
Not only will the Vikings be improved, but they will eventually have a new and improved home, the new FieldTurf facility in Riverside County Park. There will be no more dancing around goose droppings and dealing with mud.
“We’re thankful to have a legitimate field now,” said NA head coach Sharon O’Brien Romer, who begins her 11th season as head coach. “We all needed it and we’re going to share it. But it’s definitely better.”
There’s another reason for eternal optimism. The Vikings welcomed a host of freshmen to the program this fall.
“It’s always a good thing to have a lot of freshmen, but this is more than I have ever had,” said O’Brien Romer, who will carry six freshmen on her varsity roster.
The Vikings’ top returnee is senior sweeper Christina Nardini, a three-year starter there and one of the top defenders in the entire New Jersey Interscholastic Conference.
Another top returnee is senior Tatiana Balugos, who was a forward last season and has been moved back to center midfield.
Senior Joanna Seca, who didn’t play last year, has returned to the team and she will be another midfielder.
“She has a lot of skill and we’re glad to have her back,” O’Brien Romer said.
Those three key players give O’Brien Romer a lot of promise for the season.
“I think we’ll have a better season,” O’Brien Romer said. “We have kids we can move around and that will help. We have some experience and that also helps. It’s always nice to have kids who are willing to take a chance and play different sports.”
Senior Lorraine Lichtenberger is the team’s goalkeeper. She stepped into the role last year midway through the season.
“She has improved a lot in goal,” O’Brien Romer said.
Nardini is a fixture at sweeper. There might not be a better player at the position locally.
Junior Sarah Palma is the team’s stopper. She played a defensive wing last year, but has been moved closer to the goal.
“Sarah also can move up to forward when needed,” O’Brien Romer said. “I’m very comfortable with Christina and Sarah there. Sarah is an interesting player, because she can move up and give us some offense. I like having offensive minded players there and their experience back there is a key.”
Senior Anna Doherty is another quality defender. The Vikings also have senior Julieta Quintero and sophomore Samantha Maglori to help out on the backline, where they appear to be very solid.
Balugos and Seca head the midfield play. Sophomore Jessica Gilmour is the team’s jack-of-all-trades.
“I can put her anywhere and she can play,” O’Brien Romer said of Gilmour.
Another key addition to the Vikings’ midfield has been freshman Callie Evanchick.
“She has a lot of potential,” O’Brien Romer said. “I’m really excited about having her with us.”
Up front, the Vikings have senior Bridget Mejia returning.
“She has shown a lot more confidence this year,” O’Brien Romer said.
Junior Taylor Barth also returns. She was the Vikings’ leading scorer last year with six goals.
Senior Cristina Valente is another returnee to the forward line. Freshman Nicole Guerra will get playing time. O’Brien Romer also likes Guerra’s potential.
“She’s strong and fast,” O’Brien Romer said of the newcomer.
“We have a lot more options this year,” O’Brien Romer said. “The kids are pretty excited about the season.”
That’s because they’ll have a spanking new facility to call home. Say sayonara to the geese. They can flock over to the old field, because they don’t necessarily like to flock to fake grass. That alone is good news for the Vikings.
So are a few more wins, which appear to be headed their way this time around.