Six local soccer teams move on in NJSIAA tourney

NA girls get to semis; top seeds Kearny, Harrison boys and Lyndhurst girls advance

Photos by Jim Hague North Arlington sophomore defender Carly Mullins clears the ball during the Vikings’ 2-1 win over Wood-Ridge in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I quarterfinals last week at Rip Collins Field. The Vikings advanced to the sectional semifinals to face Glen Ridge
Photos by Jim Hague
North Arlington sophomore defender Carly Mullins clears the ball during the
Vikings’ 2-1 win over Wood-Ridge in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group
I quarterfinals last week at Rip Collins Field. The Vikings advanced to the sectional
semifinals to face Glen Ridge

Six local soccer teams have advanced to their respective semifinal rounds in the NJSIAA state tournament.

Three local boys’ teams and three local girls’ squads will play in the sectional semifinals in action that began Monday.

On the boys’ side, Kearny, the state’s No. 1-ranked team, remained undefeated with two victories last week in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group IV tournament. The Kardinals, now 20-0-1, were slated to face Newark East Side in the sectional semifinals Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Harvey Field.

Harrison, the top seed in North Jersey Section 2, Group II, remained alive with two state playoff wins last week. The Blue Tide was slated to play host to Garfield in the semifinals Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The third local team still alive on the boys’ side is North Arlington, which was slated to face Bloomfield Tech in the North Jersey Section 2, Group I bracket Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Vikings advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0 win over Technology of Newark last Thursday.

On the girls’ side, Lyndhurst, the top seed in North Jersey Section 2, Group II, advanced to the sectional semifinals with a 3-1 win over Hackettstown last Thursday. The Golden Bears were scheduled to face Parsippany in the North 2, Group II semifinals at the Lyndhurst athletic facility at 2 p.m. Monday.

Kearny, the third seed in North Jersey Section 1, Group IV, advanced to the semifinals via two thrilling victories, having knocked off Morris Knolls in the first round via penalty kicks, then defeated Randolph, 1-0, with a late goal.

The Kardinals will now face 10th seed Ridgewood in the sectional semis Monday at Harvey Field at 2 p.m.

If the Kards win, then there will be a showdown Thursday against perennial powerhouse Montclair Thursday at Harvey Field at 2 p.m. So if the Kards manage their magic against Ridgewood, the sectional championship game will be held at Harvey on Thursday.

The last local semifinalist is North Arlington, who could very well be the least likely of the semifinalists.

The Vikings, now 17-3, advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling 2-1 win over Wood- Ridge last Thursday at Rip Collins Field, in a game played in a light fog rolling across the complex from the Passaic River, making the game seem to be in London rather than North Arlington.

In the game, the Vikings won without getting a goal from standout Joanna Seca.

Kaitlyn Stajek scored a first half goal and Kelly Lennon snapped a 1-1 tie with a goal with just 10 minutes remaining in regulation, breaking the tie and lifting the Vikings to the semifinals.

“We knew we could still do it, if we remained focused,” Lennon said. “It was definitely a little nerve wracking, but I knew we could do it. I was just trying to cross the ball to the middle and hoped that someone would be there to kick it in. It went up a little, dropped and went in. I’ll definitely take it.”

The Vikings advanced to face Glen Ridge Monday afternoon in Glen Ridge.

“It wasn’t the prettiest goal ever, but it was the most meaningful,” said Lennon, who scored her sixth goal of the season.

“We talked at halftime about taking chances at goal,” North Arlington head coach Dan Farinola said. “Kelly just made the play and outsmarted the goal. It was outstanding for her.”

The Vikings scored first on a fine play between freshman midfielder Savannah Smith and sophomore forward Stajek.

Smith took the ball down the far right wing, then played the ball across to the middle where Stajek knocked it home in the 12th minute of the game.

It looked as if Seca was going to tally the winning goal, when the hand ball was whistled, but Seca’s penalty kick (just after the one she made, but was called off when a North Arlington player was ruled to be in the box) hit the crossbar and the game went on.

Lennon said it meant something to win without their top player scoring.

“I think the whole team got together today and was ready to play, ready to give their all,” Lennon said.

Farinola was happy with the win.

“It’s really special to beat them a third time,” Farinola said. “It was good that we were familiar with them, but they were really familiar with us. We were just hoping to make the playoffs last year and we won a game. This year, we’ve now won two. We’re not content. We want to make a little run.”

In any case, it’s a great postseason performance by all six local squads. Chances are that a championship lies in the horizon. We’ll have more next week.

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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.”