Lyndhurst boys’ soccer: dramatic improvement in 2015

Photo by Jim Hague The Lyndhurst boys’ soccer team looks to improve this season. Front row from l. are Ernesto Mendez, Douglas DaSilva and Ryan Brown. Back row from l. are head coach Dennis Jelcic, Bashkim Saiti, Derek Santi, Milton Rua and Leonardo Gil.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst boys’ soccer team looks to improve this season. Front row from
l. are Ernesto Mendez, Douglas DaSilva and Ryan Brown. Back row from l. are
head coach Dennis Jelcic, Bashkim Saiti, Derek Santi, Milton Rua and Leonardo

Denis Jelcic begins his second season as the head boys’ soccer coach at Lyndhurst High School, knowing full well that the Golden Bears will be dramatically improved over the 6-12 squad he fielded last year.

“I was new to the program, so I took time to find out what we had,” said Jelcic, who also serves as the hockey coach at the school. “I think the kids expected to have a little bit of trouble, but they came hard every single day and hustled their tails off. So I think we were rebuilding rather than going through growing pains.”

Jelcic came away being impressed with the attitudes of the players.

“They let me know right away that they wanted to play,” Jelcic said. “The younger players we had made strides and got better. It makes me believe that we’re ready to have a good two-to-three years here. Let’s see where we go. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Jelcic said that the first encouraging sign was the way the team responded in the offseason.

“We must have had about 95% attendance during our summer workouts and I’m ecstatic about that,” Jelcic said. “I’ve seen a lot of hard work and a lot of progress. I have a very good feeling about this team. I’m very happy to see their dedication.”

Jelcic said that he still has basically a young team.

“We have only six seniors, but I’m happy to see the maturity that those seniors have displayed,” Jelcic said. “I’m really happy where we’re at. Excited is the word I’d like to use. I’m excited about what we have.”

Junior Milton Rua is the team’s goalkeeper.

“He’s probably the most inexperienced player we have,” Jelcic said. “But he has improved already and he’s holding his own.”

Senior Ryan Brown returns to his spot as a center back.

“He is a great athlete who plays volleyball and basketball,” Jelcic said of Brown. “We can put him anywhere on the field and he would perform well.”

The other center back is newcomer Bashkim Saiti, a transfer from Teaneck. Saiti is also a senior.

“He’s brand new to the program, but he’s fit in well,” Jelcic said. “He’s going to be a very good player for us.”

The other two defenders are junior Douglas DaSilva, a returnee from last year’s team, and sophomore Leonardo Gil, who saw limited action with the varsity at the end of last season.

The Golden Bears were bolstered by the return of senior Andrew Cosman, who didn’t play with Lyndhurst last year because he was training with the Red Bull Academy. Cosman did play and started with the varsity as a sophomore. Cosman will be the center midfielder.

“I expect big things from him,” Jelcic said. “He’s been the biggest addition. He came out of nowhere one day and said that he wanted to play. He’s a solid player.”

Senior Jonathan Laraj returns to his starting slot in the midfield, where he scored three goals last year. Junior Nick Pacheco tallied seven goals a year ago. Senior Giovanni Arcentales is a three-year varsity performer who has moved from center midfield to right. Arcentales scored six goals last year.

But that’s a talented midfield group that the Golden Bears, a contingent that will have to play well every match if Lyndhurst is going to rise above the .500 mark this season.

Junior Raymond Valenzuela returns to his starting slot on the forward line. Sophomore Vincent DiTonto slides into a starting role on the front line.

The Golden Bears were scheduled to open their season Tuesday against METS Charter of Jersey City. They have a home match Friday against New Milford.

“I want us to be competitive,” Jelcic said. “I think we can give the top teams a run. Our goal is to win at least 10 games and make the state tournament.”

With the talent Jelcic has, those don’t seem like lofty goals at all. As long as the Golden Bears can score more goals, then their long-term goals are easily reachable.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”