By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The 2014 high school softball season was certainly a memorable one for Lyndhurst High School. The Golden Bears won the school’s first-ever NJSIAA state sectional championship, capturing the North Jersey Section 2, Group II title in coach Emily Ringen’s first year as head coach.
The Golden Bears also won their division of the New Jersey Interscholastic Conference.
“We were league champs, then state champs,” Ringen said. “But we’re trying not to use the words ‘last year’ that often. I didn’t want to put pressure on them that they had to do it again. They’re a good group to work with and I think they’ve bought into what I’m selling them.”
That’s why Ringen doesn’t bring up the Golden Bears’ successes of a year ago.
“It’s over,” Ringen said. “It’s something we needed to defend, but I try not to mention it too much.”
The Golden Bears have only two returning starters from a year ago, but they’re in the most influential positions in softball, namely catcher and pitcher.
The catcher is junior Monica Laverty, who has developed into a fine catcher despite not looking like she fits the part.
“She knows the game,” Ringen said. “I was a catcher when I played, so I have a good relationship with Monica. She’s just picked up where she left off last year.”
The pitcher is one of the very best around.
Senior Jenn Tellefsen is a dominant force, both on the mound and with the bat.
Tellefsen was a workhorse in the championship game of the Weehawken tournament Saturday, defeating defending Hudson County champion Kearny, 2-1, in the title game. In the final that lasted an incredible 13 innings, Tellefsen allowed just five hits and struck out 19. She also had the two-run double that gave the Golden Bears the victory.
Tellefsen is headed to Florida State-Jacksonville in the fall.
“She definitely sets the tone of the game,” Ringen said of Tellefsen. “It’s huge to have her back.”
Tellefsen had 17 strikeouts in recent win over New Milford and 15 strikeouts in defeating Midland Park.
“She sets the tone with her powerful pitching,” said Ringen, who has this team out to an 8-4 record and have won four straight.
Tellefsen had 10 hits in her first 17 at-bats this season (.588) and had a Bergen County best in RBI with 13 after just three games.
“The opposing teams recognize her and won’t throw to her,” Ringen said.
After Laverty and Tellefsen, the Golden Bears are extremely young and inexperienced, thus the concerns about the lineup.
Junior Giana Nerney played practically every position last season and has settled into the first base role.
“I put her everywhere last year and she responded,” Ringen said.
Senior Nicole Calabro is returning to action after an injury and may see time at first base.
The second baseman is freshman Makenzie McMillan, who has responded well to the challenges as well.
“She has the potential to be a very good infielder,” Ringen said. “She’s a good athlete. I think she can have a good career.”
Junior Haley Duffy is the shortstop.
“She can do it all,” Ringen said of Duffy. “She’s like a junior captain out there. She’s a good leader. She’s a threesport athlete, so she knows what it takes.”
Duffy also plays basketball and volleyball at Lyndhurst.
The third baseman duties have been shared by a pair of sophomores in Olivia Carins and Jessie Bolton.
“They both have talent,” Ringen said. “They’re young and getting to understand the game better. But they’re still learning.”
Sophomore Olivia McMullin is the left fielder.
“She knows the game and I like having her in the lineup,” Ringen said.
Senior Kayleigh O’Rourke is the centerfielder.
“She has so much energy that it’s incredible,” Ringen said. “She’s our sparkplug and our leader in off-the-field activities.”
O’Rourke had some college offers, but she’s elected to attend Norwich University in Connecticut.
The right fielder is freshman Genna Ricciardi, whom Ringen says “has a strong bat and solid arm in the outfield.”
Three other seniors see playing time, namely Kathleen Totaro, Amanda Roman and Natalia Sampedro.
The Golden Bears are hot right now, having won four straight, including the impressive wins over Kearny and West Orange, both Group IV programs.
“I think we’re going to take it week-by-week,” Ringen said. “We do have a very young squad, so it’s really wide open for playing time. We’re going with the hot hands.”
Right now, that hot hand is Tellefsen, who is pitching like one of the very best in the state.
Assistant coach Diana Auteri helps Ringen immensely.
“We talk softball all the time,” Ringen said. “We talk as if we’re still playing. That’s the name of the game.”