By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Mike Flynn has been the girls’ soccer coach at Queen of Peace for enough time to realize what he needs from his team this season.
“We have eight seniors,” said Flynn, who has been involved with QP athletics for over a decade. “They know what to expect.”
But the Golden Griffins have lost one (to Harrison) and tied one (to Dwight-Englewood) in the early going.
“No doubt about it,” Flynn said. “We weren’t happy with the outcomes. These were two teams that we beat last year.”
Right now, even with the experience, the Golden Griffins are still trying to find themselves.
That’s because senior Marissa Dundas, who scored 37 goals last year, good for fifth in the entire state, has yet to play after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
“She dislocated her shoulder and had surgery back in June,” Flynn said. “We’re hoping that she comes back next Saturday. I anticipated that we were going to have to play without her. I told the girls before the season that Marissa might not be back for the entire season and we had to deal with it.”
Leading the returnees is senior goalkeeper Lia Rodriguez, who never played organized soccer before high school, but has now turned herself into a top-flight net minder, among the very best in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference.
“She’s legitimate and she now wants to play soccer in college,” Flynn said. “I’m comfortable with her back there and her teammates are comfortable playing the ball back to her. She’s just a good kid. Give me 11 kids like Lia and we’d be a champion. She’s going to be a nice fit for some college team. She never misses a practice.”
The team’s sweeper is junior Michaila Mastrofilippo, who has been part of the Golden Griffins’ varsity for three years.
“She’s been at the position since she was a freshman and every year she gets better,” Flynn said.
Michaila’s twin sister, Michele, is a standout forward who scored 17 goals last season.
“I’ve known them since they were four years old,” Flynn said. “They were once my ball girls on the sidelines.”
The stopper is freshman Jane Amadeo, who has had a storied career in the Kearny Recreation program.
“We welcomed Jane with open arms,” Flynn said. “She’s been the standout of the team so far. She’s certainly not playing like a freshman.”
Senior three-sport standout Nikki Sammartino has returned to the soccer team. Sammartino, also a fine softball and basketball player, is a defender, along with sophomore Christine Castillo.
Flynn likes Castillo.
“She’s extremely coachable and a lot of fun,” Flynn said. Center midfielder Maria Ruiz also returns for her senior year. “She’s the most underestimated player on the team,” Flynn said. “She distributes the ball well. She had a ton of assists to Dundas last year. But we need Maria to start taking some shots and scoring more.”
Senior Dana Cotter is another midfielder. Cotter broke her ankle and missed last season.
“She’s my enforcer,” Flynn said. “She’s a tough kid.”
Sophomore Giulia Gargano is another midfielder.
“She’s an up-and-comer,” Flynn said. “She’s one of the stars of the future.”
Another rising star is freshman midfielder Ashley Ruivo.
“She’ll eventually replace Marissa, but I can play her anywhere right now,” Flynn said.
Freshman Kelly Lennon gives Flynn more hope and optimism for the future. Lennon also plays in the Golden Griffins’ midfield.
Michele Mastrofilippo returns to her forward slot and the team has been mixing and matching with the other forward position, waiting for Dundas to return.
“We have to play it out,” Flynn said. The Golden Griffins do have high hopes and aspirations for the season, but a lot of it depends on how well Dundas returns after sitting out for so long. “We’re going to get better, because the younger kids have to get a chance to play more,” Flynn said.
And that’s what is happening now, waiting for the star striker to get healthy enough to play. If Dundas returns this weekend as expected, then expect the wins to return for the Golden Griffins.