By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
As she begins her third season as the head coach of the Harrison girls’ soccer team, Annemarie Sacco believes that her team will be improved this year, simply because they spent the summer months together.
“Our Harrison Recreation program sponsored our team playing in the Kearny Thistle league,” Sacco said. “It showed their dedication to the game.”
And in turn, the summer months have led to improvements on the field as the 2013 season begins.
“You can definitely see that they move the ball better,” Sacco said. “They have more of a concept of open space and they’re utilizing that. They faced better competition over the summer and that has to help. We were very inexperienced last year, so we’re hoping that the experience they got over the summer together will be a positive thing.”
The Blue Tide posted a 4-13-1 record last season, but Sacco feels that it will be a better mark this time around.
“We’re definitely looking to improve,” Sacco said.
Senior Maribeth Carias was set to return as the goalkeeper, but she suffered a shoulder injury that seems to be recurring, so sophomore Alexia Garrison has been a capable fill-in as the Blue Tide keeper.
The sweeper is junior Gabriella Ortiz, who was a defender last year. The stopper is senior Viridiana Garcia, another defender who has moved into a more important role this year. Freshman Lucy Pinto is also along the back line. Sacco likes Pinto’s potential.
“She’s played a lot of soccer and has a lot of experience at a higher level,” Sacco said of Pinto. “I feel very good about her.”
Senior Sabrina Aiello is a returnee at defender.
Junior Cindy Passos returns to her slot at center midfield. Passos, who has good ball skills, had five assists last season.
“She’s our leader and our playmaker,” Sacco said.
Anne Doyle, a senior, is more of a defensive midfielder.
Junior Chelsea Uribe is an offensive-minded midfielder.
“She is a good ball distributor,” Sacco said. “She can make some great runs on the outside.”
Junior Melissa Carriera is another member of the Blue Tide midfield.
Junior Katherin Merino is back to lead the Blue Tide forward line. Merino was the Blue Tide’s leading scorer last year, finding the net eight times.
“We need her goal scoring,” Sacco said.
Sophomore Raquel Seeback is another forward, as is sophomore Eva Kiss, whose name might make all romantics happy.
The Blue Tide suffered a crushing blow when senior Stefanie Bento suffered a knee injury in the offseason. She is still wearing a bulky knee brace, so her return remains in question. Bento would have added some needed offensive punch.
Sacco knows that her team will be concentrating on one area this year.
“We have been focusing on defense,” Sacco said. “That’s what we need to do.”
The Blue Tide has also been focusing on conditioning. Before one early morning practice recently, the team was timed as they ran laps around the Harrison High School complex. This was at 7 a.m., before even the birds were chirping.
But the team was out there, chugging along, under the watchful eye of the head coach and her staff. In terms of dedication, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s hard to get teenagers out of bed at 7 in the morning, never mind have them run miles under a stopwatch.
“We’re really hoping that the experience they got in the summer pays off,” Sacco said. “It’s helping them be aware of what it takes. Now they have experience playing with each other at a high level. It has to help.”
The Blue Tide begins the 2013 season with a match against Leonia Sept. 12.