By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Kim Hykey has been around the sport of girls’ soccer for a while now. Even though she’s not far removed from her playing days, first at her alma mater Lyndhurst High School and then later at Seton Hall, Hykey has seen quite a bit.
But nothing like what she had to endure last year as Lyndhurst’s head coach.
“It was cruel,” Hykey said. “I can’t imagine anything like last year. We didn’t have a full lineup from October on. I never saw that in any sport, anywhere.” Injury, illness, personal setbacks, you name it, the Golden Bears had it in 2012.
“It really was amazing,” said Hykey, who somehow managed to coach the injury-riddled Golden Bears to a 10-9-1 record and a win in the NJSIAA state playoffs against West Essex.
Now, a year has passed and the Golden Bears’ returning players are finally healthy and raring to go.
“We have nine seniors who have really been showing leadership,” said Hykey, who begins her fourth season as head coach. “We have three captains and last year, we didn’t have any. Of the nine seniors, four are four-year players. That’s a lot of leadership.”
Hykey also likes the influx of new blood into her program.
“We had 18 freshmen come out this year and that’s a crazy total for a small Group II school,” Hykey said. “Four or five of them will see varsity time. They are talented players and they are fast. They’re going to make an impact right away. So we have a good mix of senior leadership and young players. They’re doing a great job and doing anything I ask of them.”
Leading the way is senior goalkeeper Bianca Fata. It’s Fata’s third year as a goalkeeper, so the idea of her being unsteady from being moved back from the midfield isn’t even a question.
“She’s not a field player playing goal anymore,” Hykey said. “She’s a true goalkeeper. She’s come a long way. She’s comfortable in goal and does a great job there.”
The sweeper is senior Dina Ingenito, who has held down that position for the last three years.
Senior Brittany Ferreira is the team’s stopper. The rest of the defensive unit includes senior Nicolette Carrion and sophomores Gabriella Franchino and Joanne Arvanitakis.
“It’s a solid defensive group,” Hykey said.
The center midfielder is four-year varsity starter Grace Tomko. Now, Tomko is a senior and she can make sure that this is her best year. She had 11 goals and four assists last season.
“She is absolutely deadly on corner kicks,” Hykey said.
Another key midfielder is senior Amanda Nowak, who scored nine goals last season, but eight came in a three-game stretch, one of which where she scored four. Nowak, an Observer Athlete of the Week honoree last year, missed a good portion of last year’s campaign with a knee injury.
Junior Giana DiTonto is a talented midfielder, as is fellow junior Jessica Sailace.
But the player to watch is freshman Amanda Fulcher, who is moving right into the Golden Bears’ picture.
“She can shoot righty or lefty, but she has a great left-footed shot,” Hykey said. “She knows how to finish. She plays the running game well.”
Senior Alissa Pipon is another player to watch on the Lyndhurst midfield.
The forward line features senior Cassie Franchino, the older sister of Gabriella who had six goals in just five games last year, and senior Gianna DeLuca.
Others who will see time include sophomores Destiny Keith, a midfielder, and Gianna Nerney, a defender and midfielder; freshman Kelsie Kearns, an energy player who could play anywhere; freshman Claudia Engels, a defender and backup goalkeeper Sara Barreiros.
Hykey likes her team’s chances.
“As long as we stay healthy, I think we’ll be okay,” Hykey said. “I can’t imagine anything like last year. We have a good mix of youth with the experience of our senior class. Hopefully, we’ll jell together and make some noise later on.”
The Golden Bears open up the 2013 season Thursday against Dwight-Englewood.