By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s never easy when a high school girls’ soccer program has to replace a handful of graduating seniors. But the Lyndhurst High School program lost 12 seniors at last June’s commencement exercises, a staggering total for a small school.
The Golden Bears saw standouts like Grace Tomko, Dina Ingenito and Amanda Nowak move on, the latter two currently playing for the Felician College women’s soccer program. It’s a lot for one program to overcome.
However, the Golden Bears haven’t missed a beat thus far in 2014, winning five of their first six matches, including three straight shutout wins last week against Ridgefield, Queen of Peace and Dwight- Englewood.
The Golden Bears also won three straight contests by identical 8-0 margins. That’s a pretty impressive scoring outburst. Since losing in the season opener to New Milford, Lyndhurst has rolled off five straight wins, all via shutout.
Still, head coach Kim Hykey _ one of the greatest players in the school’s history now serving as coach at her alma mater _ believes that the Golden Bears’ best soccer is ahead of them.
“I still think it’s going to be a transition period,” said Hykey, now in her fourth season as head coach. “The talent is there. It’s just going to take a little time.”
The Golden Bears have a new goalkeeper this season in Sara Barreiros, who has been nothing short of brilliant thus far, posting five straight clean sheets after allowing just one goal in the opening loss to New Milford.
“She has the potential to be a good one,” Hykey said of Barreiros. “She’s not afraid to come out of the goal and hold the line.”
Sophomore Kelsie Kearns inherits the role of being the team’s sweeper. Kearns started as a freshman last year.
“She’s super tough and super fast,” Hykey said. “She’s a warrior back there. She plays bigger than her size.”
Claudia Engels, another sophomore, is the team’s stopper. Engles is also a returning starter.
Sophomore Caitlyn Blake and juniors Joanne Arvanitakis and Gabrielle Franchino are the other defenders who have obviously stood out thus far.
“The back line is young, but experienced,” Hykey said. “I love it, because it means our future is bright back there. Every coach would love to have a young and experienced back line.”
In the midfield, the Golden Bears will count on senior Giana DiTonto, one of just two returning senior starters from the team that went to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II semifinals a year ago.
DiTonto collected an astounding 22 assists last year, but Hykey is looking for a little bit more this year. “
She’s going to have to find the net a few more times this year,” said Hykey of DiTonto, who had two goals last year.
“We need her to think shot and not pass a little more this year.” So far, DiTonto has obliged to her coach’s wishes, as she has already surpassed last year’s goal total with five and has amassed an incredible 10 assists in six games. DiTonto is well on her way to a spectacular season.
Jessica Failace has also been a force in the midfield, scoring three goals thus far.
Sophomore Amanda Fulcher, who scored seven goals last year as a freshman, already has six goals this season.
The biggest contribution thus far has come from junior forward Destiny Keith, who has six goals, tied with Fulcher for the team lead.
“She has all the talent in the world and the speed to be very special,” Hykey said of Keith.
Freshman Isabella Pimenta has also contributed as a forward, scoring two goals and adding three assists.
What is truly remarkable about the Golden Bears thus far is that 11 different players have scored at least one goal, which means Hykey is getting a lot of players involved and they are all contributing in a positive manner.
For example, defender Blake has scored two goals already. Engels has also scored a goal and added three assists.
Mia Luna has scored three goals coming off the bench.
There is offensive firepower throughout the lineup, which bodes well for the future. So this might have been a work in progress, but the results have been outstanding thus far.
“We had to grow up in a hurry,” Hykey said. “I think more importantly right now is that we have to stay healthy.”
The Golden Bears already suffered a tough loss to injury, when talented sophomore midfielder Gabrielle Carrion went down with a broken foot. Carrion is working her way back to top playing shape and should be fine in the coming weeks. Carrion scored three goals and had four assists last year as a freshman.
“We can definitely compete,” Hykey said. “We just needed other people to step up. But we’ll be alright. We’ll be fine.”
Sure looks that way so far.