Area teams celebrate NJSIAA state glory
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
So what were the top local sports stories for 2014?
For one, it was an unprecedented year for local teams and individuals earning their fair share of NJSIAA state championships. There were a lot of celebrations to be found throughout the area all year long.
It was also a year for farewells and tributes, of traditions being restored and returned. It was also a World Cup soccer year, one that captivated soccer fans throughout the area for more than a month.
All in all, it was a year to remember.
So let’s take a closer look at the Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year for 2014.
Harrison wins NJSIAA Group I state soccer title
The last time that Harrison High School, the most prolific high school soccer program in New Jersey state history, had captured a state crown, was back in 2008.
But led by the goal-scoring prowess of Ali Lakhrif, who ended up setting a new single-season school scoring record by knocking home 37 goals, and a stingy defense, the Blue Tide steamrolled its way through the NJSIAA Group I state playoffs, eventually defeating Haddon Township, 4-0, in November to win the 25th NJSIAA state soccer championship in the school’s history, the most ever in the history of boys’ high school soccer in United States history.
The Blue Tide won all six of their state playoff games by a combined goal total of 33-1. That’s utter dominance. For capturing the state championship, Harrison boys’ soccer team owns the No. 1 spot among local sports stories for 2014.
Nutley’s Montgomery wins NJSIAA Meet of Champions gold in the javelin
Nutley’s Grace Montgomery, who was a standout three-sport athlete at Nutley High School and who would eventually go on to capture The Observer Co-Female Athlete of the Year for her athletic achievements, did the unthinkable in June, capturing the gold medal in the javelin at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, becoming the school’s first-ever girls M of C winner.
Montgomery had captured the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III gold medal, then placed third at the overall Group III meet, earning her place among the elite throwers in the state.
Before her final throw of the competition, Montgomery was 12th and appeared headed to finishing out of medal contention.
However, on that final throw, Montgomery unleashed a bomb, throwing the javelin 129 feet, further than any other girl competitor and earning her place in Nutley and Essex County history. By winning the gold at the M of C, Montgomery earns the No. 2 spot for sports stories in 2014.
Kearny wins Hudson County titles in both boys’ and girls’ soccer
It’s nothing new for Kearny to win county championships in soccer, but it’s pretty special when both the boys’ and girls’ teams win Hudson County Tournament titles in the same year.
The Kearny girls reigned supreme for the sixth straight time, defeating Memorial in the title game. Barbara Paiva, who set a new single-season school goal scoring record with 38 goals, led the way for the Kearny girls, who finished the season 18-3. Lily Durning scored 17 goals and Amber Crispin added 16 for the Kardinals.
The Kearny boys won the county title for the first time since 2012, defeating North Bergen in the finals. Danny Vicente scored two goals in the title game and Sebastian Ferriera posted a shutout en route to being selected to the First Team All-State squad.
Needless to say, it was a year to remember for both Kearny soccer programs.
Lyndhurst wins first-ever NJSIAA softball sectional crown
The Lyndhurst softball team enjoyed a historic moment in May, when the Golden Bears defeated Madison, 3-2, to the win the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state crown, the first state title in softball in school history, earning the No. 4 spot in our list.
First-year head coach Emily Ringen molded the team properly, with pitcher Jenn Tellefsen leading the way. First baseman Alyssa Pipon delivered the clutch RBI single that gave the Golden Bears the elusive state crown.
Lyndhurst wins cross country, outdoor state sectional crowns
The Lyndhurst boys’ track team enjoyed a great run, winning both the NJIC-Colonial Division and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state titles.
William Hooper was a key contributor to both the indoor and cross country championships. Jake Estevez won three medals at the North 2, Group I championships, beating Shabazz in the process.
Kearny softball wins first-ever county title
The Kearny softball team earned a place of history as well, winning the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament title, rallying from a four-run deficit to defeat Bayonne, 6-4, in the title game. Pitcher Carolynn Rivera hit a home run in the title game to seal the deal, earning No. 6 honors in our year-end review.
Nutley girls’ soccer reaches state sectional title game
The Nutley girls’ soccer team won 16 games and reached the finals of the North Jersey Section 2, Group III bracket, where the Maroon Raiders fell to Roxbury. But thanks to the play of scholarship players Victoria Kealy (Rider) and Zoe Steck (soon to pick the school of her choice) the Maroon Raiders moved a step closer to their elusive goal, a state title.
Lyndhurst’s Servideo retires
The area lost a huge legend, when long-time Lyndhurst athletic director and head baseball coach Butch Servideo announced his retirement after giving 55 years of his life to Lyndhurst, the first 13 as a student, then 44 more years as a coach and administrator.
The Golden Bears won the overall NJSIAA Group I title under Servideo’s guidance in 2008 and won more than 500 games under Servideo’s leadership. He will be sorely missed.
North Arlington’s Keefe wins state sectional bowling title
North Arlington junior Tyler Keefe created his slice of history, when Keefe won the NJSIAA North 1, Group IA state sectional championship in bowling. He rolled a 776 series and a 279 high game to secure the gold medal. He’s one of the top bowlers to watch this season.
Kearny volleyball reaches state sectional title game
Under the guidance of head coach Bill Mullins and standout players Joel Vivas and Bryan Rodriguez, the Kearny boys’ volleyball team made it all the way to the NJSIAA Group IV finals, where they lost to nemesis St. Peter’s Prep. In fact, two of their three losses were to the powerful Marauders. Still, it was a great season for the Kardinals, a epic season, a 20-win campaign that will resonate for the years to come.
Just missed list
There were several noteworthy events that just missed being among the top 10, like Kearny’s Steven Koziel winning six medals at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions for his work as a paraplegic; the Nutley football team reached the NJSIAA North 2, Group III playoffs for the first time in four years; Cristina Nardini of North Arlington won three medals at the Bergen County outdoor track championships; Kearny’s Corey Sawyer exploded onto the scene by throwing three no-hitters for the Kardinals’ baseball team; Nutley’s Joe Ferinde finished eighth in the state wrestling at 120 pounds; the North Arlington boys’ golf team qualified for the NJSIAA state sectionals for the firsttime ever; Queen of Peace’s Kevin Momnohin played in the annual New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic; North Arlington sent three athletes to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions for the first-time indoor track program; Kearny resident Tomasz Adamek lost a huge fight against Vlacheslav “Czar” Glazkov, more than likely ending his professional career; Lyndhurst resident Jim MacDonald, a legendary softball coach, died; Nutley East Little League repeated as District 8 12-year-old champions; the area was engulfed with World Cup fever, with Germany winning the Cup and the United States moving on to the quarterfinal round; Queen of Peace went through a host of coaching changes; Nutley won the Super Essex Conference cross country title, the school’s first cross country title in 32 years; Nutley’s Devin Ortiz earned a spot on the U-15 National baseball team; North Arlington’s “Rip” Collins Field got a $2 million facelift; North Arlington’s Danny Cordeiro, now on the NJIT soccer team, was named Observer Male Athlete of the Year; Nutley’s Grace Montgomery and Kearny’s Nicole Kelly were named Observer Co-Female Athletes of the Year.
All in all, it was definitely a year to remember for Observer sports.