Former Weehawken coach takes over Harrison program
By Jim Hague
The Harrison High School girls’ soccer program has turned to Annemarie Sacco, the former head coach at Weehawken, to take over the Blue Tide and give the program some stability.
“Everything has been great so far,” said Sacco, who replaces Nadine Damiano as the Blue Tide head coach. “The girls aren’t used to having to show up so early in the morning every day, but they have been really committed.”
Sacco is also encouraged that 35 girls have come out for the team this year. That is an extraordinary total for a school with a Group I enrollment.
“Just having that kind of interest in our program is great,” said Sacco, a native of Massapequa, N.Y., who spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Weehawken. “We did lose about 11 seniors to graduation, but these girls are holding their own.”
Sacco had one message to the girls as she took the reins as head coach.
“I told them that I didn’t know any of them and that I didn’t know what positions they played in the past,” Sacco said. “I wanted to start from scratch. It’s better that way. They have a chance to show me what they can do and what they can bring to our team. But I wanted to be able to make the decisions of who played where. It’s worked out well.”
Sacco is a graduate of the University of Scranton and will teach at Harrison this fall.
“Harrison represents a better opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to being here,” Sacco said.
Sophomore Anne Doyle is the Blue Tide new net minder. Sacco has been impressed with what she’s seen from Doyle so far.
“She definitely has the good goalkeeper skills,” Sacco said of Doyle. “She jumps to the ball and dives for the ball well. We’re working on her being more aggressive outside of the box, but she has the basic skills to be a good one.”
The sweeper is sophomore Viri Garcia, who has also shown a lot to the new coach.
“Viri is amazing,” Sacco said. “She has tremendous passion for the game. She’s always practicing and playing, even after our practices are over. Her work ethic has improved her skills tremendously.”
The stopper is returning starter and senior Bianca Martinez.
“She’s aggressive and tough there and we need that, especially with a young team,” Sacco said.
The defenders are Erin Mitchell and Ashley Rodriguez, both of whom are seniors.
Senior Nicole Cunha is the center midfielder. Cunha had some big moments for the Blue Tide last year, when they won eight matches and qualified for the NJSIAA state tournament.
“She’s really fast,” Sacco said of Cunha. “She’s aggressive and takes good shots. She has good skills at that position.”
Senior Stephania Suquitana and juniors Amarilis Castillo and Stephanie Bento are other solid midfielders for the Blue Tide.
Sacco has been encouraged by the leadership she has received from her senior players.
“They’ve been a great help, especially with me being a new coach,” Sacco said. “The seniors are going out of their way to teach the freshmen and that’s so important, because a lot of the freshmen are totally new to the game. They’ve been a huge help.”
The Blue Tide’s front line is very young, with freshman Catherine Mariano leading the way. The experienced Mariano might be the best talent the Blue Tide has produced in several years. Sophomore Ximena Lopez and freshman Melissa Carreira are also playing in the Harrison front line.
“Mariano is one of the strongest players I’ve seen and I’m really happy to have her,” Sacco said. “I’m expecting big things from her.”
The Blue Tide opens the 2011 season against Becton on Friday.
“We have to be competitive this season,” Sacco said. “That’s the goal. We’re pushing them in that direction.”