Boys’ and girls’ teams both win Hudson County Tournament championships
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Kearny is certainly called “Soccertown, USA” for a reason.
The Kearny High School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams both won their respective Hudson County Tournament championships Sunday afternoon.
The girls’ team won their sixth straight Hudson County championship with a 3-0 victory over Memorial.
Then the boys’ team finished off the clean sweep by defeating North Bergen in their championship game by a 2-0 score.
It’s definitely a reason for celebrations at Kearny High.
Kearny girls’ head coach Vin Almeida had some concerns, because his team was trying to defeat Memorial for the third time this season – and there’s an old sports adage which states that it’s very hard to win for a third time against the same team.
“Memorial over the last several years has become much improved and they’ve become a dander in the county,” Almeida said. “They have tough competitors who fight until the last minute. It was a challenge to play them. It’s always tough to get that third one. They have some good players, but our girls were able to shut them down. They didn’t produce many threats.”
Almeida credited his veteran group of midfielders for their prowess defensively, namely Amanda Eustice, Kathleen Dos Reis, Taylor Munro and Amber Crispin.
“They were asked to play as a unit and cover for each other,” Almeida said. “They had to be patient and did a great job of taking away everything.”
For Eustice, the victory was certainly redeeming, considering she missed all of last season due to a knee injury.
“It was a huge goal for me,” said Eustice, a senior. “I made sure that I came back and made a difference. I made sure each time I stepped on the field that it counted. I know now that you never know when it’s going to go. I missed it all last season. I wanted to be alongside my teammates and couldn’t, so to come back and make a contribution really feels great. We have a six-peat. How awesome is that?” Eustice said that it was a goal from the start of the season to go for No. 6 in a row.
“We wanted to be the first class to win all four years,” Eustice said for the rest of the seniors. “To finish off our senior year with another county championship is just awesome. We worked very hard for this.”
Senior Barbara Paiva scored a goal, the 34th goal of her season, breaking the single season scoring record in the process. Crispin and Natasha Magee scored the other goals.
Kearny boys’ head coach Bill Galka knew that his team was going to have a tough time with North Bergen.
“We knew that they were a good team and it was certainly going to be a battle,” Galka said. “We felt better playing them on a bigger field (at Harrison High). If we opened up the field, it was to our advantage. It would benefit us all around.”
Senior Danny Vicente, who was not with the program last year as he was part of a soccer academy, scored both goals in the win over North Bergen. Vicente, who missed most of the week because of a rib injury and illness, came off the bench to score the game’s first goal on a header, then later added a penalty kick.
“I knew I was going to play, but I didn’t know how much,” Vicente said. “This was the county championship. It’s my senior year and I wasn’t going to miss it. It was a good feeling to share this with my friends. I didn’t think I’d score at all. But to come off the bench and lead the team is amazing.”
Senior goalkeeper Sebastian Ferreira echoed Vicente’s sentiments.
“It’s a perfect story line,” Ferreira said. “It’s a perfect setting for us. You can’t write it any better than that. To win this again makes it so much sweeter.”
The Kardinals won for the third time in the six-year history of the county tourney. They last won in 2012.
Galka credited the work of his backline, namely Michael Almeida (no relation to the coach), Adrian Velazquez, Andrew Quintos and Damian Kolodziej for their defensive work.
“Adrian really stepped up and won a lot of balls for us,” Galka said. “That got us going. They’ve all been solid all year.”
The seniors all had it in mind that they wanted to win the county title after losing last year in the semifinals.
“They all said that it was a goal to win the county tournament,” Galka said.
Almeida also credited his defensive line, namely goalkeeper Laura Vilar and defenders Dana Green, Lisa Rodrigues and Salma Bouzidi for their efforts.
“We thought by now that someone might have caught us sleeping,” said Almeida, whose team is 85-0-1 against Hudson County opponents over the last six years. “It’s a tribute to our girls, because we never let our guard down.”
Eustice said that her comrades actively cheer for the boys’ team.
“We are all good friends,” Eustice said. “We always talk to each other. Our goals are always the same. Both teams are extremely close. Some of my closest friends are on the boys’ team.”’
“It’s always good when the girls win, because if they win, then we’re expected to win,” Ferreira said. “It’s always a good feeling when we both win.”
Like it was destined to be, in the beautiful world called “Soccertown, USA.”