By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Lyndhurst girls’ soccer head coach Kim Hykey didn’t know how well her team would fare this season, considering the Golden Bears graduated 12 seniors from last year’s squad.
“It’s not easy to fill the slots with 12 seniors gone,” said Hykey, the school’s all-time leading scorer who went on to play at Seton Hall and became the head coach at her alma mater three years ago. “We really haven’t found our starting 11 yet. We’ve been switching around kids throughout the scrimmages. We’re still trying to find ourselves. I’m happy that we’re still able to win while we’re trying to find ourselves.”
The Golden Bears won their first three games against Dwight-Englewood, Harrison and Leonia, so they’re well on their way to another successful season. But Hykey has been a little concerned with the way the Bears have been playing.
“We have a lack of accuracy in finishing our shots,” Hykey said. “Our shots are not quality shots. I think a lot of that is because we’re still not set with our lineup.”
The Golden Bears are set in goal, as junior Bianca Fata returns. Fata started the 2011 season as the starting goalkeeper, then moved into the regular lineup once Amanda Uhlick returned to action after rehabbing a knee injury.
“Bianca has some experience in the goal,” Hykey said. “She had a good summer in our summer league and she’s showing signs that she’s a lot more comfortable. I just need her to play with a little sense of urgency there.”
The team’s sweeper is junior Dina Ingenito, who was the stopper last season.
“She was a sweeper growing up, but she waited her turn while Nicole Baratta was there,” Hykey said of Ingenito, who moves over to replace the All-Bergen County defender now at Ramapo College. “She’s done fabulously well. I’ve had opposing coaches say to me, `Where did this kid come from?’ She’s really stepped up her play big time. She felt it was her turn and she’s taking charge back there.”
The stopper is freshman Joanne Arvanitakis, who has also done a fine job.
“It is asking a lot to put a freshman back there, but she can do it,” Hykey said. “She doesn’t say a lot, so on the field, that’s a bad thing. We need her to communicate more. It’s tough going from recreation and travel soccer to varsity. But with each game, she’s getting more experienced. We’re easing her into it and we hope by the end of the year, she’ll be polished there.”
The other defenders are senior Camila Alonso, the basketball standout, and juniors Nicolette Carrion and Brittany Ferreira.
“Camila didn’t play soccer last year, but we’re fortunate to have her come back,” Hykey said. “She’s a very good athlete.”
The center midfielder is junior Amanda Nowak, who is one of the best midfielders in the NJIC. Nowak had 18 goals and 12 assists last year.
“We play through her when we’re doing well,” Hykey said. “She has a very strong leg and creates a lot.”
Another midfielder is sophomore Giana DiTonto, who has shown a lot of promise thus far.
“She needs to be a little more of a leader on the field,” Hykey said. “She has just as strong of a leg as Nowak has.” Senior Dana Halligan, a returning starter, is also in the midfield.
“Dana is one of the best passers around,” Hykey said. “She sees the field well. She does a lot for us with the tools she has.”
Senior Alexandra Crujeiras is another fine midfielder for the Bears. Junior Gianna DeLuca also sees time in the midfield, where the Bears are deep and talented.
Junior Grace Tomko is the Bears’ main target on the front line. Tomko had 17 goals last season and has already started the 2012 season off with a bang, scoring threee goals in the win over Harrison and six total in the first three games.
“She’s so physical and she’s so much of a presence,” Hykey said. “We need her to do more this year and she absolutely can. She’s a great kid and a hard worker. She’s a pleasure to have on our team.”
The other starting forward is sophomore Jessica Failace, who is also showing signs of being a dominant scorer.
“She can run forever,” Hykey said. “The girl simply doesn’t get tired. She’s also a good scorer as well.”
The Golden Bears are blessed to have depth up front as well, using senior Tesnean Abu-Hakmeh and juniors Cassie Franchino and Alyssa Pipon to contribute some scoring punch.
All in all, Hykey likes her team.
“I like what’s there,” Hykey said. “The potential is there. We just need to come together a little more.”
The Golden Bears have a tough week ahead, with matches scheduled against Hasbrouck Heights, neighboring rival Queen of Peace and Cresskill on tap.
“I think we’ll get to know a little more about ourselves after this upcoming week,” Hykey said.
Count on Nowak and Tomko, two of the best players around, to lead the Golden Bears to another double-digit win season and a berth in both the Bergen County and NJSIAA state tournaments.