Kearny girls’ soccer back on track after rough opening game


Photo by Jim Hague/ The Kearny girls’ soccer team has rebounded from a tough early season loss. Front row, from left, are Raquel Bernardino, Kelsey French and Amanda Eustice. Back row, from left, are head coach Vin Almeida, Julie Dias, Kayla Lockard, Ashleigh Amadeo and Alana Howell.


By Jim Hague

The Kearny High School girls’ soccer team had high hopes and expectations for the 2011 season. They had a host of players back from the team that captured the Hudson County Tournament championship a year ago and the Kardinals wanted to make sure that they stayed around longer in the NJSIAA Group IV state tourney, with a possibility to win the whole ball of wax.
However, disaster occurred in the very first game of the season. The Kardinals were absolutely smoked by Scotch Plains-Fanwood, losing by an unthinkable final score of 8-1.
The early season troubles made head coach Vin Almeida reflect a little and make some instant changes. For one, Almeida moved junior Haley Durning from forward to goalkeeper. It wasn’t an easy transformation, although Durning had some experience in net.
“We were too inexperienced and young in goal,” Almeida said. “We had to make some changes. Haley was not afraid of taking on the challenge. She’s very athletic and we thought she could handle the move.”
It has changed the course of the Kardinals around, because since Almeida put Durning in net, the Kards have rolled off five straight wins, including a huge 1-0 win over Westfield last Saturday, the same Westfield team that defeated Scotch Plains-Fanwood earlier last week. Durning made some huge saves to protect the shutout.
“She was amazing for us,” Almeida said.
The Kards do have experience in the back line with Ashleigh Amadeo at sweeper and Kaitlyn Lima at stopper.
“They’re both very tough,” Almeida said. “Amadeo has played very well there and she’s very powerful.”
The other Kardinal defenders are senior Alana Howell and freshman Amanda Eustice.
Almeida had no hesitation in starting a freshman in the back line.
“Amanda is doing very well and she has so much energy,” Almeida said. “She’s as tough as nails for a little girl. She fits in well with the others back there who are seniors. She also gives physical challenges to Amadeo. It’s a nice fit.”
Senior Mercedes Lois, who has played both forward and midfielder during her career, is now a fixture at midfield.
Junior Katie O’Neill is the Kardinals’ center midfielder and main playmaker. O’Neill already has four goals and six assists this season.
“Katie is the engine who keeps us going,” Almeida said. “She just keeps getting better and better.”
Seniors Addison Keim and Brianne Nieto, sophomore Nicole Kelly and freshman Kathleen Dosreis are also key performers in the midfield. Dosreis has a lot of promise and definitely has a bright future.
Senior Stefanie Gomes returns at forward for the Kardinals. Gomes, who has been one of the most consistent scorers in northern New Jersey for the last three seasons, is already well on her way to having another great campaign.
Gomes has tallied 10 goals already in the Kardinals’ six games.
“She’s played very well and she’s always working hard,” Almeida said. “We absolutely need her every game. If she doesn’t have a great game, it’s very hard for us to win.”
Sophomore Melissa Pineda, who scored the team’s lone goal in the huge win over Westfield, has been solid at forward as well. Freshman Barbara Paiva, who Almeida called “very technical and very creative,” is also seeing action up front.
“Barbara really plays with a lot of flair,” Almeida said.
So the Kardinals have recovered from that horrible season-opening loss. They’re on a roll right now and have already started to make their mark in the confines of the Hudson County league.
They will also get a chance to see the grand stage of Red Bull Arena Oct. 8, when they take on Harrison in what should be a very special doubleheader for both Kearny and Harrison’s boys’ and girls’ soccer programs.
It’s safe to say Almeida has to feel better about the state of his team, especially after the way they rebounded from the tough loss.
“I really do,” Almeida said. “To come back and beat a team like Westfield, especially after they had beaten Scotch Plains, is huge. It’s a good sign of determining what we will be like later on. It was a very good win. We absolutely want to win the county again and go further in the states.”
Maybe that can truly happen this year for the Kardinals.

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