By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
North Arlington’s Joanna Seca will be away from the Vikings’ girls’ soccer team for the next two weeks. She’s off to play at a higher level, joining the Portugal national 17-and-under team play.
“It’s a huge step and a golden opportunity for me,” Seca said. “Hopefully, it will lead to bigger and better things.”
It’s going to be a big loss for the Vikings, who are enjoying a fine 8-3 record thus far. But first-year head coach Dan Farinola realizes that he has to allow Seca to get the chance to play at such a prestigious level.
“It’s unbelievable,” Farinola said. “I can’t even imagine what that must be like for her. We have to change our game plan a little without her and in these five games, we’re certainly going to miss her.”
That’s an understatement, because Seca was in the middle of an incredible season.
In just 11 games, Seca had scored 20 goals and added 18 assists. In the week prior to her departure across the Atlantic, Seca scored nine goals and added six assists.
Seca had an incredible five goals and two assists against Weehawken, added two goals and two assists against Immaculate Conception of Lodi and had two goals and two assists against St. Mary’s of Rutherford.
That’s some offensive explosion and certainly a tremendous sendoff.
For her efforts, Seca has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“It feels awesome,” Seca said. “It shows that my hard work pays off. I had the right hungry mentality to get those five goals. I’m very happy with the way the season is going.”
Seca said that she had a lot of confidence coming into her senior year because she played with the top club soccer team in New Jersey, namely the Player Development Association (PDA).
“It helped with my skills and helped me improve tremendously,” Seca said. “It gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I was really excited coming into the season, but I didn’t know what to expect. We lost a lot of seniors from last year. I knew I had to step up a little.”
Seca said that she has been holding control of the ball more and finding teammates like Taylor Barth, who has also scored 20 goals thus far.
“I bring the ball up myself,” Seca said. “That takes a little getting used to. I used to pass the ball a lot, but now, I look to take the ball and shoot as well. After a while, that gets natural.”
Seca said that she will miss playing with her team for the next two weeks.
“It’s tough, because we’ve all been working so hard,” Seca said. “I hate to leave. I want to be able to help the team. It stinks that this is taking place now and I can’t be a part of what my team is doing. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime dream.”
Farinola is happy having inherited a talented player like Seca.
“She’s really been like having another coach on the field,” Farinola said. “She has helped me tremendously. It’s a nice gift to have as a new coach. She’s fabulous. She worked so hard in the offseason.”
Farinola said that Seca’s work ethic in the offseason served as an inspiration for the other members of the Vikings.
“She got her fitness level up,” Farinola said. “She worked on her speed. She worked on her feet with the ball. She moves the ball effortlessly. And she can use both feet and can shoot from 30 yards out with either foot. It’s hard to see anyone else with that ability and it’s really cool to watch.”
Farinola heard some good things about Seca when he took the head coaching position.
“But she’s better than I thought,” Farinola said. “I knew she was going to be the center midfielder, but she’s outdone my expectations.”
Farinola said that the attention Seca commands has made her other players, like Barth, better performers.
“Other teams can’t help but to give all the attention to her, so she’s helped the others,” Farinola said. “It wasn’t her team at the beginning of the year, but it is now. And now she knows it’s her team.”
Remarkably, Seca has not received any offers from colleges, despite her soccer prowess and her academic status. Seca is currently ranked second in the North Arlington Class of 2015.
“I’m sure she’ll get some attention soon,” Farinola said. “I think she’s a Division 1 player. If she played any sport, she’d be an All-League player. That’s how good of an athlete she is. She’s a special girl. Someone has to give her a look now.”
“That’s the ultimate dream,” Seca said. “My goal has always been to play at the college level.”
Seca was asked if her 5-foot- 2 stature hurt her chances of getting recognized by colleges.
“No, not at all,” Seca said. “I don’t really think about that. Whenever I hear that I’m too short, I use that for motivation.”
Needless to say, Seca is sitting atop the world. She’s scored five goals in a game, knocked in 20 goals in 11 games and is now headed to Portugal to play for that nation’s top U-17 program. Life is good for Joanna Seca.
“It’s really been a fun year,” Seca said.