By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Make no bones about it. The Kearny High School girls’ soccer team will be one of the finest contingents in New Jersey this fall.
The Kardinals have it all. They have experience, they have offensive scoring power, they have ball handlers and a rock solid defense.
“We have a nice, fast moving, exciting team,” said veteran head coach Vin Almeida. “We have to get the ball moving forward and the let them guide the offense.”
The Kardinals, winners of an incredible five straight Hudson County tournament championships, have all the ingredients of making a long run in the NJSIAA Group IV state tournament come November.
Leading the way is senior forward Barbara Paiva, who scored more than 20 goals a year ago.
“She’s a fantastic player with great ability,” Almeida said. “There are not too many girls who can strike the ball with both feet the way Barbara does. She’s one of the better ones. She’s so creative with the ball.”
Senior midfielder Kathleen Dos Reis returns. She was injured for most of last season with ankle problems, but she’s back and better than ever.
“She’s playing very well,” Almeida said. “We have to get her in the attack.”
Junior forward Amber Crispin is also back. She scored 16 goals last year.
“Amber is also one who can strike with both feet,” Almeida said. “She’s going to drop some balls into the net, because she can hit it hard.”
Almeida likes the offensive approach the Kards have.
“We’re coming back with a good amount of offensive firepower,” Almeida said. “We also have some young kids who can assist in that area. We have a nice rhythm offensively and we’re going to score a lot of goals.”
The lead goalkeeper will be junior Laura Vilar, who started in goal last year, but she will receive assistance in net by senior Amanda DeSousa.
“We should be solid with the experience we have coming back,” Almeida said.
The Kardinals return four starters along the defensive back line.
Senior Dana Green has tremendous size and skill to play a center back position. Senior Eliza Rodrigues is another solid experienced defender. Senior Salma Bouzidi has tremendous ball skills and speed for a defender. Sophomore Isabel Fernandez rounds out the contingent of strong defenders. All four earned accolades last season for their prowess in a 19-3 campaign.
“We have a lot of talent back there,” Almeida said. “Dana Green can be intimidating on the back line. Salma has great skill with the ball and we get her involved with the attack. It’s a good group.”
Dos Reis keys the midfielders, but the talent doesn’t stop there.
Senior Taylor Munro is a returning starter in the midfield. Senior Amanda Eustice returns strong after missing last season with a torn ACL in her knee.
The Kardinals would have had even more talent in the midfield if not for the injuries to Sydney Pace and Breanne Rodriguez. Both will not be able to play this season due to injuries.
“We have a nice competition going on for the last spot in the midfield,” Almeida said.
Junior Ryelle Seda and sophomore Merrin Keim are in the hunt, as well as freshman Natasha Magee.
Up front, the Kardinals have Paiva, Crispin and sophomore Lily Durning, who Almeida called “a good contributor.”
The Kardinals will also get assistance from sophomores Victoria Van Riper, Rachel Nieto and Sydney Viscuso on the back line, and seniors Cindy Guzman, Nicole Sanchez and twin juniors Ashley and Alexis Castaneda along the midfield.
“The challenge is to get them all some good playing time,” Almeida said.
The Kardinals have it all. “It should be a good one,” Almeida said. “We’ve looked good in the preseason. The girls just have to believe.” The Kearny girls’ soccer booster club is sponsoring the third annual beefsteak at the Scots-American Club at 40 Paterson St. in Kearny on Friday from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $40.
But it should be an exciting season for the Kardinals.
“We’re due for a win on that side (penalty kicks in the state tournament),” Almeida said. “We’re hoping to finish it off in regular time. I think we can be a force to be reckoned with if we keep the right mind set.”
And as for a state championship? “There’s surely that possibility,” Almeida said.
Everyone in Kearny is hoping for that possibility to become a reality.