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Lyndhurst boys’ soccer: Finding their way through growing pains

Photos by Jim Hague The Lyndhurst boys’ soccer team is showing signs of turning the corner, thanks to the return of senior Anthony Giaquinto (l.), who missed most of last season with an injury, and the solid contributions of senior midfielder Michael Polito.

Photos by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst boys’ soccer team is showing signs of turning the corner, thanks to the return of senior Anthony Giaquinto (l.), who missed most of last season with an injury, and the solid contributions of senior midfielder Michael Polito.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Lyndhurst High School boys’ soccer coach Rob Kost is trying to find some continuity with his team. It’s not easy.

“We’ve had our share of injuries and red cards,” Kost said. “It’s tough to compete without a full team. We’re maneuvering a lot. I’m impressed with the effort.”

Recently, Kost added a freshman to the lineup and Doug DaSilva has provided a bit of a boost.

“It seemed as if he lit a fire under everyone,” Kost said of DaSilva. “I think that’s the spark we needed to get going.”

DaSilva scored a goal and added an assist in his varsity debut.

“It’s just what we needed,” said Kost, whose team now has a 4-5 record this season. “He was all over the field. Being shorthanded, we didn’t have much up top, but we’ve definitely evolved since we put him in.”

The Golden Bears’ goalkeeper is senior Matt Lemke, who Kost called “the emotional leader of the team.”

Lemke missed some time at the beginning of the season due to a sprained ankle, but he’s returned to maintain stability in goal.

Kost has been juggling players at the sweeper position, using players like versatile senior Giuseppe Pollicino and sophomore Andrew Cosman at the spot.

“Giuseppe has been the backbone and solidifies the back, so we move him around,” Kost said.

The stopper is senior Erik Marulanda, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but has returned this season entirely healthy.

“Getting him back was a big help to us,” Kost said.

The other defenders are seniors Danny Zerboni and Devin O’Donovan and promising sophomore Montana Thungasson.

Senior Anthony Cardaci, who started last year as the Golden Bears’ goalkeeper, then moved to midfield, has returned to his midfield slot. Cardaci gives Kost the option of playing him in either spot. Cardaci has scored two goals this season.

Another key midfielder is senior Anthony Giaquinto, who only played two games last year due to an injury.

“We’re so glad to have him back,” Kost said of Giaquinto. “He’s doing great. It’s been a pleasure to have him. He’s one of our most skillful players. He always comes determined to play.”

Senior Michael Polito, who also is a fine basketball player in the winter months, is another key contributor from his midfield slot. Sophomore Giovanni Arcelentas is making major strides as a member of the Lyndhurst midfield.

Seniors Matt Lima and Matt Stevens and junior Edgar Bravo are forwards in the Golden Bears’ lineup, joined now by the addition of the energetic DaSilva.

Although the Golden Bears suffered a tough one-sided loss to North Arlington and high-scoring Danny Cordeiro last week, Kost still feels that his team has perhaps turned the corner.

“I think we’re getting better,” Kost said. “Unfortunately, we got off to such a slow start, but now that we have some emotion and passion, we’re a totally different team. We played a strong game against Harrison (a 3-0 loss), so that helped us. For now, it’s all about building character. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we have in us. I’m hoping we can roll off a couple of wins.”

Kost knows what the Golden Bears have to do.

“We have to play our game,” Kost said. “We have to possess the ball better and mount a counter attack. We’re getting better.”

Luckily for the Golden Bears, the season is only half over. There is time for recovery – and thanks to the spirit of a freshman, Lyndhurst has apparently found that opportunity to be an improved team in the middle of the season.

QP’s Momnohin has incredible performance in win over Becton

 

Photo by Jim Hague Queen of Peace senior running back/linebacker Kevin Momnohin.

Photo by Jim Hague
Queen of Peace senior running back/linebacker Kevin Momnohin.

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Queen of Peace head football coach Robert Kearns has been around the game of football for more than three decades, including two tours of duty as the head coach of the Golden Griffins.

So it’s safe to say that Kearns has seen his fair share of games and players over the years.

And although Kearns has only been back at QP for a few months, he didn’t have to be there long to reap the praises of senior do-everything Kevin Momnohin.

“He’s the most sensational player I’ve seen in my 32 years of coaching,” Kearns said. “He just goes right to the top. He’s a coach’s dream. I’ve seen Knowshon Moreno (of the Denver Broncos) and Donald Brown (of the Indianapolis Colts) and he’s right there with them. You can’t teach what he has. He just has another gear. He’s able to cut and turn and once he gets his shoulders squared and going up field, watch out.”

In the Golden Griffins’ recent 49-37 victory over Becton Regional, there were a lot of people – especially the members of the Becton grid squad – who had a chance to watch out for Momnohin, who enjoyed one of the best all-around games in Bergen County high school football history.

Try these numbers on for size.

Momnohin carried the ball 24 times and collected an astounding 322 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also caught eight of quarterback Anthony Villano’s passes for an additional 152 yards and two more touchdowns. Monmohin also scored twice on point after touchdown conversions, giving him 42 of the Golden Griffins’ 49 points. Between his rushing and receiving achievements, Momnohin combined to gain an unfathomable 474 yards of total offense on his own.

For good measure, Momnohin collected eight tackles on defense and sealed the victory with an interception.

Is there any doubt that Momnohin would be selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week?

Momnohin earns the distinction of being selected as Athlete of the Week for the third straight year, one of only a handful of athletes to be honored three times.

For good measure, Momnohin had 205 yards rushing, 102 yards receiving and four touchdowns in the Golden Griffins’ 37-30 win over neighboring rival St. Mary of Rutherford on Saturday, pushing the Golden Griffins’ record to 3-1. In four games this season, Momnohin has now scored 15 touchdowns.

After the Becton explosion, Momnohin said he was surprised to learn of the incredible totals he reached.

“To be honest, I didn’t know until the game was over,” Momnohin said. “I then said, ‘Wow, it was a big game for me.’”

A lot of people joined Momnohin in their astonishment.

“Well, it was definitely a career high,” Momnohin said, still laughing.

It was actually a Queen of Peace single game school rushing record.

“I said that during the game that it had to be a school record,” Kearns said. “I was actually getting tired watching him run. He just kept going and going. It was like he ran 17 miles in the game. It was almost like running a marathon. I told him that I understood if he was a little tired, but he stayed in there. ”

A year ago, Momnohin might have had a tough time staying around late in a game to set a school record. He battled a string of injuries and spent a good portion of last season on the sidelines nursing those injuries.

“It was definitely a goal this season,” Momnohin said. “I had to stay healthy. I spent a lot of time in the weight room to get stronger and to work on conditioning. I had to stay strong and I had to stay healthy.”

Momnohin said that he likes the idea he’s no longer just a running back, that he’s catching passes as well.

“I was a receiver before I became a running back,” Momnohin said, “I had to be convinced to accept the fact that I was a running back. But it definitely opens up things when teams try to key on me and it definitely does make me more of a double threat.”

What also makes Momnohin more dangerous are the players around him. His twin brother, Keith, is a fine back and receiver in his own right. Quarterback Villano has amassed more than 700 yards passing and eight touchdowns in the first four games. Fullback Tajier Jefferson has eclipsed the 100-yard plateau in each of the last two games.

“The biggest difference now is that we can spread the ball around,” Kearns said. “But Kevin is the one who makes everyone look good.”

“My brother, Tajier and Anthony can give me a break,” Momnohin said. “It’s opened things up for those guys to also make big plays.”

Incredibly, there was a point last summer where it looked as if the Momnohin brothers were not going to return to QP for their final year of high school. There was a change in football coaches, with Steve Romano leaving and Kearns returning. The Momnohins were almost headed to Orange High School.

“But I started at Queen of Peace and wanted to stay at Queen of Peace,” Momnohin said. “I wanted to finish what I started.”

Kearns just adores Momnohin – and deservedly so.

“I can’t stop talking about him,” Kearns said. “He’s just amazing. The biggest thing that stands out about him is his personality. He’s smiling all the time. When I look at him, he’s smiling and all he says is, ‘just give me the ball.’ He’s the kind of kid that a father would want for a son.”

“He said that about me?” Momnohin asked. “I’m speechless about that. For him to give me such a high compliment like that is amazing and means a lot.”

Although he’s collected more than 1,000 yards in total offense and scored 15 touchdowns in four games, Momnohin is still without any college offers. He also has the grades to qualify in college right away.

“I’m as amazed as anyone can be,” Momnohin said. “It’s kind of stressful that I haven’t been offered yet. But without a doubt, if I keep putting up numbers like I have been, I would imagine the scouts and recruiters will come. I’m going to go all out. It’s my last year and I’m out to impress the college coaches.”

Momnohin said that he still can’t believe what he did in the Becton game.

“I’ve watched the films and as I play it, it’s still shocking to me,” Momnohin said.

And as for being a Golden Griffin?

“I’m definitely glad I made the decision to stay,” said Momnohin, who plays basketball in the winter and runs track in the spring. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Kearny girls’ cross country team excels at Passaic County Coaches meet

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny girls’ cross country team had a fine showing at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park Saturday. From l. are Anna Czykier, Julia Coppola, Mariah Davila, Aislinn Sroczynski, Erika Alzamora, Noemi Campos, Melissa Quiros and Maria Lozano.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny girls’ cross country team had a fine showing at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park Saturday. From l. are Anna Czykier, Julia Coppola, Mariah Davila, Aislinn Sroczynski, Erika Alzamora, Noemi Campos, Melissa Quiros and Maria Lozano.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Before the current high school cross country season began, veteran Kearny High School coach Jim Cifelli knew that he had the makings of something special.

“We are certainly the favorites to win the (Hudson) county championship,” Cifelli said. “Sure, you can’t predict those things, but we certainly have the depth and the talent. I don’t think it’s that bold of statement. It’s just a statement of fact. We’re bringing everyone back and added three girls. Last year, we had no depth and that hurt us. This year, we have eight girls and that does help the team’s chances.”

Cifelli also acknowledged that the depth has aided with the competition among the runners.

“The most important kid on the varsity is the last one,” Cifelli said. “Because then, everyone works harder. Healthy competition within the team is always good. It’s good because all the girls get along very well.”

The camaraderie was definitely evident last Saturday in the Kardinals’ first strong competitive race of the season. The Kardinals finished third as a team at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational Varsity Girls Group 4 race at Garret Mountain, a solid effort that will only help to boost confidence as the season progresses.

Photo by Jim Hague From l., Aislinn Srocczynski (second) and Erika Alzamora (fi fth) led the way for Kearny at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet Saturday.

Photo by Jim Hague
From l., Aislinn Srocczynski (second) and Erika Alzamora (fi fth) led the way for Kearny at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational meet Saturday.

 

Leading the way Saturday was senior Aislinn Sroczynski, who finished second overall in the race, crossing the line in 20:35.10, trailing only winner Gina Riccardi of Livingston, who came home in 20:16.66.

“Aislinn is the one who makes this team go,” Cifelli said. “She’s all heart and all attitude. Her mother (Heather) ran for me and her father (Steve) ran for me, so Aislinn has that competitive nature and has added that competitive spirit to workouts. She was a novice a year ago, never having run before. But she battles tooth and nail, every step of the way.”

The Kardinals’ other ace performer is fellow senior Erika Alzamora, who finished fifth in the race Saturday in 21:03.89.

“She’s been our best all along,” Cifelli said of Alzamora, who won the individual Hudson County championship last year. “I expect her to be much better this year. She was sick last week, so that set her back a little. I expect her to be among the top three in the state sectional. She’s still very young as a senior. She’s only 16 years old. But she has so much experience. And you can see that in her workouts.”

The Kardinals’ third runner is senior Mariah Davila, who finished 18th overall in 22:24.21.

“Her attitude has improved a lot,” Cifelli said. “She would back out of workouts with little injuries here and there, but she doesn’t do that anymore. She was the freshman county champ three years ago, but she now realizes her place on the team and keeps everyone in sight.” Sophomore Anna Czykier was 30th overall at Garret Mountain in 23:20.13. “She ran indoor and outdoor for us last year, but never did the distances with everyone else,” Cifelli said. “I think we’ll see the best of her later in the season. She can be something special.”

Senior Noemi Campos was 29th overall on Saturday, finishing in 23:18.59, a solid performance. Seniors Wendy Carranza and Melissa Quiros, junior Julia Coppola and sophomore Maria Lozano round out the Kardinals’ roster.

Needless to say, Cifelli likes the makeup and the character of his team. Saturday’s solid performance is just a sign of better things to come.

“I think because we have good depth and because they work so well together, I think we have a chance to do some good things,” Cifelli said. “We were fourth in the sectional last year. Our goal is to finish at least third, a representative third. I think Aislinn and Erika should get to the groups (overall Group IV championships at Holmdel Park) and hopefully we can get them to the Meet of Champions.”

First things first. The Kardinals have to take care of local business and after Saturday, they’re certainly on their way.

Nutley girls’ soccer: Going to goal with authority

by Jim Hague Senior Natalie Melillo (l.) and junior Victoria Kealy (r.) have combined to score 20 goals and collect 11 assists in just six games for the undefeated Nutley girls’ soccer team, enjoying a 5-0-1 start thus far.

by Jim Hague
Senior Natalie Melillo (l.) and junior Victoria Kealy (r.) have combined to score 20 goals and collect 11 assists in just six games for the undefeated Nutley girls’ soccer team, enjoying a 5-0-1 start thus far.

 

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Most high school soccer teams like to take the defensive approach: protecting their own goal at all costs and hoping for the chance to get a score here and there.

That’s certainly not the thought process with the Nutley High School girls’ soccer team and second-year head coach Mike DiPiano.

“We were a 4-4-2 attack, but now we’re going with a 4-3-3 lineup, because we have so many dynamic scorers,” said DiPiano, who changed the entire outlook of the program last year, helping the Maroon Raiders win 14 games. “We decided to go after goals and let the other teams come after us. It’s a more exciting style of play.”

It’s also enabled DiPiano to upgrade the Maroon Raiders’ schedule this season, facing bigger schools with huge soccer reputations like Bridgewater- Raritan, Cranford, Glen Ridge and even Kearny this season. The Maroon Raiders played Bridgewater-Raritan, the state’s No. 11-ranked team, to a 1-1 draw last Thursday.

“The girls are really stepping it up and playing at a high level,” DiPiano said.

You can’t argue with the results. The Maroon Raiders own an unbeaten 5-0-1 record and are scoring goals in bunches.

“We’re shooting to take it to a whole new level this year,” DiPiano said. “Especially when it comes time for the (Essex) county tournament. We’ve set our sights on playing exciting, winning soccer and we’re hoping to have that.”

When DiPiano took the head coaching position last year, the Maroon Raiders were in a rut, having won just four games in 2011 and three in 2010. But DiPiano, taking a page from the old school method he learned being around the soccer program at St. Benedict’s Prep, turned the tide last season and has continued that ascent this season.

“I came in with a three-year plan and things just skyrocketed last year,” DiPiano said. “People thought we overachieved, but it was just taking advantage of the team we had.”

The Maroon Raiders certainly have enough fire power up front, thus causing the change in the offensive alignment.

“It’s unbelievable, but I think we have three girls who have a chance to all score 30 goals this season,” DiPiano said.

Senior Natalie Melillo, who had 29 goals last year, tops in Essex County, has returned and has picked up from where she left off last season. In just six games, Melillo has eight goals and eight assists. Melillo has already given a verbal commitment to attend Troy University in Alabama next fall.

“She’s a dynamic scorer,” DiPiano said. “She has a chance to break our school scoring record this year.”

Junior Victoria Kealy is another of those top-flight scorers. Kealy moved from center midfield, where she played last year, to forward without a glitch, scoring a team-high 12 goals thus far.

“She’s an excellent player and she’s already getting looks from colleges like American and Monmouth,” DiPiano said.

The third goal getter is freshman Zoe Steck, who has 11 goals and nine assists in her first six high school varsity matches.

“She has a chance to break all the school records by the time she’s done,” DiPiano said. “She’s been unbelievable.”

Steck is already playing with the New Jersey state and regional U-14 teams.

“The goals they have been scoring have been incredible,” DiPiano said. “They’re so fast. They take two passes and they’re gone.”

With an offensive attack such as that, it makes it easier for the rest of the Maroon Raiders.

DiPiano has been utilizing two girls in goal, namely seniors Meghan Montgomery and basketball standout Blair Watson. The two have been splitting time evenly thus far.

Senior captain Brittany Currie has returned to her spot at sweeper. Currie, who is also a fine softball and basketball player, is a staple on the defense.

“She’s a smart player who is very aggressive,” DiPiano said. “She’s our leader in the back.”

Senior Allyson Zeiher returns to the stopper position she held a year ago.

The other defenders are seniors Grace Montgomery, Meghan’s twin sister, and Katherine Balitsos. It means that three Montgomery family members play soccer at Nutley, as younger brother Will is on the boys’ team.

“They’re a very athletic family,” DiPiano said.

Grace Montgomery is another three-sport athlete, participating in basketball and track and field.

The center midfielder is senior Sherein Abdelhady, who has collected two goals and three assists so far.

“Everything we do goes through Sherein,” DiPiano said. “She’s the motor and the heart of the team. She’s the unsung hero. She does a great job distributing the ball.”

Seniors Samantha Haddock and Kelly Huegel are the other midfielders.

“All three midfielders played the same position last year,” DiPiano said. “We are very experienced.”

Not to mention talented.

“I think we have a shot to do good things this year,” DiPiano said. “I really do. I think if you have a shot with a team like this, you take that shot and go for it. I’d like to take a run at the state (NJSIAA North Section 2, Group III) and use the county as a stepping stone for the states. But we’re going to score goals and we’re letting the opponents to decide how they can handle that. It’s a very difficult task to try to defend us.”

As evidenced by the gaudy goal totals the Maroon Raiders have already compiled this season.

Makeshift Martin: NA standout has game to remember

 

Photo by Jim Hague North Arlington senior running back Nick Martin.

Photo by Jim Hague
North Arlington senior running back Nick Martin.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The high school football preseason wasn’t exactly going as planned for the Vikings of North Arlington High School. Just two weeks before the season opener, the Vikings’ premier player, senior Nick Martin, suffered a seriously sprained ankle that put his availability for the first game in serious jeopardy.

“I was very concerned,” North Arlington head coach Anthony Marck said. “It was a bad ankle sprain. When he went down, you could see he was in agony and Nick is never one to complain. It was our main concern. The swelling was pretty bad for a while. We didn’t have him do anything before the first game.”

Martin didn’t know what to think.

“I was really worried,” Martin said. “It was getting down close to the opening week and I couldn’t do anything with it. I didn’t want to have lingering issues with it. But it was tough.”

Martin went daily to receive treatment from local chiropractor Jim Sanfilippo, who was a standout athlete during his high school days at Kearny High.

“He got me through it,” Martin said of Sanfilippo. “He coached me through therapy to strengthen my ankle.”

Martin returned to action in time for the season opener against Elmwood Park, playing a new position. In order to get more opportunities for Martin to touch the ball, Marck decided to move Martin from tight end, where he played last year, to fullback.

“We needed to revamp our offense to become more of a downfield offense, so we put Nicky in the backfield,” Marck said. “He was going to be the lead blocker for our tailbacks while getting a few carries himself.”

However, after the loss to Elmwood Park, the Vikings found themselves in a bit of a quandary. The Vikings’ two top tailbacks, Mike Brazzel and Adrian Foote, both suffered injuries, leaving them unavailable to face Wallington in the second game.

“So we moved Nick to tailback,” Marck said. “We knew he could carry the load.”

How sure was Marck about the shift?

“I asked Nick if there was ever a point in the game where he didn’t want the ball, that he should let me know,” Marck said. “I said, `You know how much I trust you.’ He just said, `Put me at tail. I can do it.’ I told him that maybe he should also wear the headphones and call the plays.”

Martin didn’t know how well he would do as the featured back.

“I understood the responsibility, but not having experience at the position, I worried a bit,” Martin said.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Martin saw his fears disappear after his first carry of the game.

“The line did a great job and I went through the hole untouched to the end zone,” Martin said.

As it turned out, the makeshift tailback had the best rushing game in the history of the school. Martin carried the ball 26 times for an astounding 296 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Vikings to a 62-39 victory. Martin’s 296- yard performance set a new single game rushing record.

For his efforts, Martin has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the last week.

Martin also received the honor in November 2012.

Martin had no idea that he was just four yards shy of collecting 300 yards.

“I knew I was getting up there,” Martin said. “But I never thought 300 yards would be a number I could approach. When I realized I had five touchdowns, I knew it was an incredible night, because I never even had more than one touchdown in a game before. It was a completely different feeling, running with the ball. I really like being in the backfield. It’s easier for me to get the ball.”

Added Martin, “With the ball in my hands, I can do so much more. But to have a game like this? I couldn’t believe it.”

Marck said that Martin impressed a lot of people with his breakaway ability.

“People said to me that they didn’t know how fast Nick was,” Marck said. “But I see that burst every day. It’s just with the ankle and him being so big that people don’t think he can run. I didn’t believe he had as many yards as he had. I knew he was over 200, but I went back and watched the tape and it was legitimate. I wish I knew he was that close to 300, because I would have given him the chance to get the other four yards. It would have been nice.”

Martin was also honored as the Athlete of the Week by the Bergen Record, the first North Arlington football player to be recognized since Danny Sandowick, a current North Arlington police officer, was honored in 1982.

“It’s just fabulous,” Marck said. “Nick really sets the tone for everyone else. When other kids have a bump or a bruise, they might ask out for a play or so. But Nick played with that ankle and a bad hand and I think that, in itself, shows leadership. It’s a pleasure to have him.”

While Martin’s explosion might have drawn attention from college recruiters, Martin is actually considering not playing in college.

“I’m not too sure I want to play in college,” Martin said. “I’m leaning toward not playing. I think it might get in the way of my studies. I need sufficient time to keep my grades up and my academics always come first.”

Martin is an excellent student, with a 4.2 grade point average and a Scholastic Aptitude Test score of 1710. He is being sought after by the Ivy and Patriot League schools.

Martin didn’t just receive the Athlete of the Week honors.

“My coach said that he never gives out a game ball, but after the game, he said he had to,” Martin said. “Going into the game, I had no idea that would be the outcome.”

But now, Martin’s impromptu performance as a tailback has permanently placed him in the school record books forever – or until someone goes for 300 yards in one game.

Young Maroon Raider squad learning on the fly

Photo by Jim Hague The Nutley boys’ soccer team will try to defend the SEC divisional title they won a year ago. Front row, from l., are Yoshio Ishikawa, Tommy Melillo, Anthony DeBlasio and Jack Contini. Back row, from left, are Nick Feraco, Domenic Palumbo, Santino Gabriele, Joseph Nichols, Will Montgomery and head coach Marcellino Marra.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Nutley boys’ soccer team will try to defend the SEC divisional title they won a year ago. Front row, from l., are Yoshio Ishikawa, Tommy Melillo, Anthony DeBlasio and Jack Contini. Back row, from left, are Nick Feraco, Domenic Palumbo, Santino Gabriele, Joseph Nichols, Will Montgomery and head coach Marcellino Marra.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The Nutley High School boys’ soccer team is off to a 1-2-2 start after five games. In the eyes of some coaches, the record might be alarming.

But that’s not the case with Nutley veteran head coach Marcellino Marra. The affable Marra, who is in his seventh season in charge of the Maroon Raiders, isn’t overly concerned with the losses. In fact, Marra believes that the Maroon Raiders have played pretty well.

“We lost to Belleville in a close game (3-2 final) and lost to a good Newark Academy team in double overtime,” Marra said. “We tied Caldwell and Science Park (both by 1-1 scores) and we beat East Orange. The matches in the SEC (Super Essex Conference) are very tough, because everyone is so equal. We had our chances. We just didn’t get the breaks.”

Marra knows that this might be considered a rebuilding year, but he doesn’t like using that word.

“We lost 16 seniors from last year,” Marra said. “That’s a lot to lose in one year. We don’t believe in rebuilding. We believe in reloading. That’s what we’re doing this year. We’re getting our players ready to play whoever we have on the schedule.”

The Maroon Raiders have only three starters back from the 12-4-5 team that won the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division championship last year.

The Raiders lost to Morristown in the second round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs last year.

“We discussed that,” Marra said. “That loss left a bad taste in our mouths, especially the returning players. But we’re working hard to have a good team and have even better teammates. Every single game, these kids are working together so hard. I told them that it’s not where you start, it’s where you end. I see these kids playing with pride.”

Marra realizes that he’s fielding an extremely young team.

“We’re young and inexperienced,” Marra said. “Even the seniors we have don’t have much varsity experience. But they’re stepping up and doing a good job. It was a little bit of a concern coming into the season. I know their ability and they’re keeping us in games so far.”

One of those seniors with limited varsity experience is goalkeeper Joseph Nichols, who was the net minder on the junior varsity squad last year. But Nichols has been a major force thus far.

“I’m really proud with what he’s been doing in goal,” Marra said. “He’s becoming a leader on the field. He’s more vocal and that’s what we needed back there.”

The sweeper is junior Yoshio Ishikawa.

“He’s just a fantastic player,” Marra said. “He’s been on the varsity since he’s been a freshman, but this year, he’s getting his chance to play and he’s been amazing to watch. He’s developed into a fine player and I’m so proud of him.”

The stopper is sophomore Will Montgomery.

“Billy didn’t start at the beginning of this season, but he’s moved his way up and has done a nice job,” Marra said. “He’s learning every single day.”

The other defenders are senior Santino Gabriele and junior Tommy Melillo.

Leading the midfield is senior Nick Feraco, who is basically like a fifth defender on the field.

“He’s one of the most talented defenders in the league,” Marra said. “He can play anywhere. He brings the midfielders together with the defenders, but he can score as well.”

Feraco already has two goals this season.

Photo by Jim Hague Senior center midfielder Nate Peraino is the main cog to the Nutley boys’ soccer team’s offensive attack.

Photo by Jim Hague
Senior center midfielder Nate Peraino is the main cog to the Nutley boys’ soccer team’s offensive attack.

 

The Maroon Raiders’ main offensive threat is senior center midfielder Nate Peraino.

“He is a very talented midfielder who plays with incredible pace,” Marra said. “He never quits. He’s constantly going.”

Peraino also has two goals thus far.

Another talented midfielder is senior Damani Walker, who has been doing a great job setting other Maroon Raider players to get in good scoring position.

Junior Haddy Abdelhady is another key contributor in the midfield.

The forwards are senior Jose Calderon, who has scored two goals this season, and senior Tommy Pollitt, who is a newcomer to the program this season. The Maroon Raiders have a team that will only get better as the season moves on, but there’s no time to waste in the highly competitive SEC.

“I think the SEC has such a level playing field, so anything can happen,” Marra said. “The schedule definitely gets a little easier for us now. But the opposition is always good.”

It’s up to the Maroon Raiders now to play up to the level of the rest of the always competitive Super Essex Conference, a challenge that Marra feels his team can achieve.

QP girls’ soccer: Counting on veterans

Photo by Jim Hague The Queen of Peace girls’ soccer team will count on solid play from the Golden Griffi ns’ backline, namely from l. Jane Amadeo, Nikki Sammartino, Lia Rodriguez, Michaila Mastrofi lippo and Christine Castillo

Photo by Jim Hague
The Queen of Peace girls’ soccer team will count on solid play from the Golden Griffi ns’ backline, namely from l. Jane Amadeo, Nikki Sammartino, Lia Rodriguez, Michaila Mastrofilippo and Christine Castillo

 

 

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.

Harrison’s Huseinovic makes sure that Blue Tide finally gets a win

Photo by Jim Hague Harrison senior fullback Adam Huseinovic.

Photo by Jim Hague
Harrison senior fullback Adam Huseinovic.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It had been quite some time since the Harrison High School football team enjoyed a victory.

In fact, the last time the Blue Tide won a game prior to last week was Nov. 12, 2010, when they defeated Weehawken, 33-26.

Although Adam Huseinovic was on the varsity that year as a freshman, he was injured and didn’t play against Weehawken.

“I’ve been waiting for a win for a really long time,” Huseinovic said.

So that was the inspiration the senior running back had before the Blue Tide opened its season against Wallington. It was a driving force, a burning desire, through 18 long and excruciating losses, through two full seasons.

“All I can say is that it was pretty bad,” Huseinovic said. “No one likes losing. It made me hungry to get a win. I tried to bring everyone together to win that game. I worked very hard in the offseason to get ready for the first game.”

Huseinovic is no foreigner to hard work. It’s actually in his blood. His father, Al, is a custodian at Harrison High. His mother is a legal secretary.

“They were positive examples,” Huseinovic said. “Working hard rubbed off on me and I took it to football.”

Huseinovic was determined to lead the Blue Tide to a win in their season opener. There wasn’t going to be an alternative.

Especially after Matt Gallo stepped in and became the program’s new head coach. Gallo revamped the offense, installing the traditional Delaware Wing-T offense he learned during his days as part of the famed program at Hoboken High School.

The first thing Gallo did when he was mapping out his offensive strategy was to turn Huseinovic into a fullback.

“In the Delaware Wing-T, the fullback is the centerpiece of the offense,” Gallo said. “Adam was going to be our fullback. Everything we did was going through him.”

Gallo said that Huseinovic took to the responsibility of being the focal point of the offense right away.

“He was very positive from the get-go,” Gallo said. “I explained the role to him and told him that playing fullback in this offense is not the traditional fullback role. The fullback is the one who gets the call a lot. The halfbacks do most of the blocking. He bought into the offense right away.”

“I was for the idea the whole time,” Huseinovic said. “I wanted that role. I wanted the ball. I studied the offense and the players who did it before. I worked hard. I got ready to play, because I knew this was what I wanted. I felt comfortable in the role, like everything was geared towards me.”

In the week prior to the Wallington opener, Gallo said his team was very prepared. None more than Huseinovic.

“We were all practicing at a fever pitch,” Gallo said. “We had a great week. It was like nothing I ever saw before as a coach. The tempo and intensity was sky high, as intense as I’ve ever had as a coach, from top to bottom. I got a good sense out of Adam. I could see he was starving for relevancy. They hadn’t won in a long time and he was going after it. They had to go get one.”

Sure enough, led by the new fullback, the Blue Tide went and got one. They defeated Wallington, 27-20, to snap the brutal 18-game losing streak.

Huseinovic was a major factor in the win, rushing for 196 yards on 19 carries and scoring two touchdowns.

For his efforts, Huseinovic has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Huseinovic is the first recipient of the weekly honor for the 2013- 14 scholastic sports season and it will culminate in June, 2014, with the presentations of the Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

Gallo knew it was going to be a special night for his team and for Huseinovic.

“On the first play from scrimmage, Adam broke out and ran 45 yards for a touchdown,” Gallo said. “But the bulk of the yards, Adam got the hard way. He got his share of tough yards in the game. He was the workhorse and epitomized the role of a fullback. He had the breakaway run and he got those tough yards.”

“I didn’t mind it,” Huseinovic said. “Getting hit doesn’t bother me.”

Especially when you’re winning.

“It was the best feeling I had in a long time,” Huseinovic said. “Everything finally paid off. But obviously, one win isn’t enough. Without a doubt, we went right back to work. One is definitely not enough.”

The Blue Tide played hard against a good Elmwood Park squad last Friday night, but fell short, 35-21. In the game, Huseinovic just missed getting 100 yards for a second straight game, collecting 92 yards and a touchdown. But he’s well on his way. So are his teammates.

Gallo is pleased with what he’s received from the fledgling fullback.

“He’s exceeded our expectations and my expectations of him were pretty high,” Gallo said. “Adam is a throwback kind of football player, the tough kid who puts his head down and gets the big yards. He gets the job done.”

Gallo likes Huseinovic’s approach to the game.

“He’s a quiet kid, but he has quiet confidence,” Gallo said. “He’s not much of a ‘rah-rah’ kind of kid. He sets an example by how he comes out and gives his all every day. The others seem to follow that.

Added Gallo, “I put a ton of faith in him and that faith has been backed up. His work ethic is second to none.” Huseinovic is also the center-fielder for the Blue Tide baseball team, but he would much rather play football in college. He’s a member of the honor roll at the school, so college is definitely a solid option.

“I definitely want to play, but I haven’t really decided yet,” Huseinovic said.

Maybe winning some games, collecting a bunch of yards and scoring a host of touchdowns will help that cause.

“I hope so,” Huseinovic said. “That would be awesome.”

Almost as awesome as his opening night performance, one that will be remembered in Harrison for a very long time to come.

Depleted Kardinals off to solid start

Graduation, injuries forcing Kearny girls’ soccer to regroup

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny girls’ soccer team will have almost a totally rebuilt defense this season. Front row from l. are Gisselle Blancas, Chelsea DaSilva, Lacey Burton, Ashley Castaneda, Alexis Castaneda and Amanda Eustice. Back row, from l., are Isabel Fernandez, Ryelle Seda, Amanda DeSousa, Laura Vilar, Dana Green, Eliza Rodrigues and Salma Bouzidi.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny girls’ soccer team will have almost a totally rebuilt defense this season. Front row from l. are Gisselle Blancas, Chelsea DaSilva, Lacey Burton, Ashley Castaneda, Alexis Castaneda and Amanda Eustice. Back row, from l., are Isabel Fernandez, Ryelle Seda, Amanda DeSousa, Laura Vilar, Dana Green, Eliza Rodrigues and Salma Bouzidi.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It was one thing for the Kearny High School girls’ soccer team to endure big losses to graduation. Every high school team loses a considerable amount of players when Pomp and Circumstance is played at commencement exercises every June.

But the Kardinals also suffered their fair share of losses due to off-season injuries as well, making preparation for the 2013 season that much more difficult.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Kearny girls’ soccer head coach Vin Almeida said. “It’s been a major rebuild. It’s been an opportunity for others to take advantage of the situation.”

The Kardinals lost three key players to injury.

First, Chelsea DaSilva suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee in June, putting her out of action for the season.

Then, Kathleen Dos Reis suffered an ankle injury that will keep Dos Reis on the sidelines until the end of the month.

Finally, there was the crushing blow. Defender Amanda Eustice went down with a knee injury playing in a scrimmage game in August.

“She was playing so well,” Almeida said. “We went down to Maryland to play some good teams. We were playing Good Counsel, one of the top teams in the country and Amanda went down. But she popped right up and ran off the field. So we didn’t think she was hurt that bad.”

The result was a torn ACL as well, with surgery and the whole nine yards. Eustice, unfortunately, is also out for the entire season.

However, Almeida is not crying the blues. He truly believes the Kards will be in the hunt once again for county (to defend their four straight Hudson County tournament championship titles) and state honors.

“We do have some good talent,” said Almeida, who will be assisted this year by former standout players Matt Sleece (Villanova) and the program’s all-time leading goal scorer Stefanee Pace (Rutgers). “Hopefully, we can just get some wins and build from there.”

The Kardinals have started the 2013 season with a 3-1 record, defeating Bayonne, Memorial and Ferris, while falling short, 1-0, to Union.

The Kardinals have been utilizing two goalkeepers in sophomore Laura Vilar and junior Amanda DeSousa.

“Both are pushing each other,” Almeida said.

Almeida is sticking to the sweeper/stopper defensive formation.

“I prefer to play the conventional way,” said Almeida, recognizing that a lot of coaches are utilizing the four-across formation.

The Kardinals have been using three players at sweeper, namely junior Salma Bouzidi and a pair of talented freshmen in Isabel Fernandez and Sydney Pace, the younger sister of former Kearny standouts Stefanee and Samantha.

“She’s more of a midfielder,” Almeida said of the youngest Pace sister.

Almeida has faith in all three playing sweeper.

“They’ve all seen time back there and have done well,” Almeida said.

The stopper is junior Dana Green.

There are four girls battling for time at defender, namely juniors Eliza Rodrigues and Lacey Burton and sophomores Alexis Castaneda and Ryelle Seda.

Of the 10 girls Almeida listed at goalkeeper and defender, only Bouzidi has decent experience. The rest are virtual newcomers.

“It’s still early in the season and they’re still working to build a relationship with each other,” Almeida said. “They are coming along. Within a week or two, we should have the machine running.”

Photo by Jim Hague Senior midfielder Nicole Kelly is the most experienced member of the Kearny girls soccer team that has been ravaged by preseason injury.

Photo by Jim Hague
Senior midfielder Nicole Kelly is the most experienced member of the Kearny girls soccer team that has been ravaged by preseason injury.

 

It means that the Kardinal midfielders and forwards have to try to carry the load for the rest of the team.

Leading the way is senior midfielder and captain Nicole Kelly, a three-year starter for the Kards.

“She has to be the one to step it up and guide us,” Almeida said of Kelly. “She has to be the one to get us going.”

Kelly had four goals and 12 assists last year. Those numbers should increase this season.

Junior Taylor Munro is also a returning player in the Kardinal midfield.

Dos Reis, who scored eight goals last year, will be a force in the midfield when she returns from injury.

Junior Giselle Blanca is another key contributor in the midfield.

The Kards are deep at the forward position, led by sophomore Barbara Paiva, who scored 20 goals last year and already has four this season.

“I absolutely expect big things from Barbara this season,” Almeida said.

Senior Melissa Pineda, who missed all of last season with an ACL, returns, as does sophomore Amber Crispin, a solid contributor up front last year.

Lily Durning, a freshman and the younger sister of standout goalkeeper Haley, is another strong player on the Kardinal front line.

“With those four kids, it’s definitely the strength of our team,” Almeida said.

So do the Kardinals have what it takes to play for championships in late October and November?

“I think so,” Almeida said. “That’s always the goal. We put them in a tough situation in preseason in Maryland and they responded well. They got to play some of the best teams in the entire nation. So that was a positive thing. I think we’re going to be alright. We’re looking to try to peak by the middle of October. That gives this team a little time to get together. But I think we’ll be fine.”

The rebuilding process never seems to faze Almeida and the Kardinals, but this year might be a different story. The Kardinals are a team in transition, but the winning will continue.

NA girls’ soccer: Improvement in record, new home

Photo by Jim Hague The North Arlington girls’ soccer team should be improved this season. Front row, from l., are Samantha Elisiario, Sofi a Faican, Julieta Quintero and Sarah Palma. Back row, from l., are head coach Sharon O’Brien Romer, Arianna Kaminski, Anna Doherty, Melissa Torres, Nicole Obrycki, Samantha Maglori and assistant coach Anne O’Brien.

Photo by Jim Hague
The North Arlington girls’ soccer team should be improved this season. Front row, from l., are Samantha Elisiario, Sofia Faican, Julieta Quintero and Sarah Palma. Back row, from l., are head coach Sharon O’Brien Romer, Arianna Kaminski, Anna Doherty, Melissa Torres, Nicole Obrycki, Samantha Maglori and assistant coach Anne O’Brien.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The North Arlington High School girls’ soccer team won only four games in 2012, but that number is certainly going to change this season.

Not only will the Vikings be improved, but they will eventually have a new and improved home, the new FieldTurf facility in Riverside County Park. There will be no more dancing around goose droppings and dealing with mud.

“We’re thankful to have a legitimate field now,” said NA head coach Sharon O’Brien Romer, who begins her 11th season as head coach. “We all needed it and we’re going to share it. But it’s definitely better.”

There’s another reason for eternal optimism. The Vikings welcomed a host of freshmen to the program this fall.

“It’s always a good thing to have a lot of freshmen, but this is more than I have ever had,” said O’Brien Romer, who will carry six freshmen on her varsity roster.

The Vikings’ top returnee is senior sweeper Christina Nardini, a three-year starter there and one of the top defenders in the entire New Jersey Interscholastic Conference.

Another top returnee is senior Tatiana Balugos, who was a forward last season and has been moved back to center midfield.

Senior Joanna Seca, who didn’t play last year, has returned to the team and she will be another midfielder.

“She has a lot of skill and we’re glad to have her back,” O’Brien Romer said.

Those three key players give O’Brien Romer a lot of promise for the season.

“I think we’ll have a better season,” O’Brien Romer said. “We have kids we can move around and that will help. We have some experience and that also helps. It’s always nice to have kids who are willing to take a chance and play different sports.”

Senior Lorraine Lichtenberger is the team’s goalkeeper. She stepped into the role last year midway through the season.

“She has improved a lot in goal,” O’Brien Romer said.

Nardini is a fixture at sweeper. There might not be a better player at the position locally.

Junior Sarah Palma is the team’s stopper. She played a defensive wing last year, but has been moved closer to the goal.

“Sarah also can move up to forward when needed,” O’Brien Romer said. “I’m very comfortable with Christina and Sarah there. Sarah is an interesting player, because she can move up and give us some offense. I like having offensive minded players there and their experience back there is a key.”

Senior Anna Doherty is another quality defender. The Vikings also have senior Julieta Quintero and sophomore Samantha Maglori to help out on the backline, where they appear to be very solid.

Balugos and Seca head the midfield play. Sophomore Jessica Gilmour is the team’s jack-of-all-trades.

“I can put her anywhere and she can play,” O’Brien Romer said of Gilmour.

Another key addition to the Vikings’ midfield has been freshman Callie Evanchick.

“She has a lot of potential,” O’Brien Romer said. “I’m really excited about having her with us.”

Up front, the Vikings have senior Bridget Mejia returning.

“She has shown a lot more confidence this year,” O’Brien Romer said.

Junior Taylor Barth also returns. She was the Vikings’ leading scorer last year with six goals.

Senior Cristina Valente is another returnee to the forward line. Freshman Nicole Guerra will get playing time. O’Brien Romer also likes Guerra’s potential.

“She’s strong and fast,” O’Brien Romer said of the newcomer.

“We have a lot more options this year,” O’Brien Romer said. “The kids are pretty excited about the season.”

That’s because they’ll have a spanking new facility to call home. Say sayonara to the geese. They can flock over to the old field, because they don’t necessarily like to flock to fake grass. That alone is good news for the Vikings.

So are a few more wins, which appear to be headed their way this time around.