Lyndhurst boys’ soccer: Looking to step up

The Lyndhurst High School boys’ soccer team took a gigantic leap forward last year, posting a 15-5-1 record before falling to Parsippany, 1-0, in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs.

Now, as Denis Jelcic begins his third year as the head coach of the Golden Bears, he is hoping to continue the upward trend of the program, which improved from six wins in Jelcic’s first year to 15 wins last year.

“I think there’s a lot from last year we can build off of,” said Jelcic, who also coaches Lyndhurst’s hockey cooperative with Hackensack and Paramus. “We have a lot of returning players. The kids played a lot of soccer together in the offseason. They played in a spring soccer league together. It was a 19-and-under league, so they were facing guys much older. But that’s the only way to get better is facing older guys. I think it helped a lot. I watched a few of their games and they more than held their own. I was happy.”

Jelcic was also encouraged by the turnout for the beginning of the soccer season.

“We had 35 kids come out and they were in fantastic shape,” Jelcic said. “The feeder program we have in town is tremendous. They get the kids to come in and they’re ready to go. They do a fantastic job with the feeder program. They know their soccer. They’re easy to work with.”

Of course, there’s another reason for extreme optimism in Lyndhurst.

“Sure, winning does help, that’s for sure,” Jelcic said. “People do tend to get a little more excited when you’re winning. But the commitment to the sport helps as well. We have a ton of kids who are committed to soccer. This is coming along. The kids all help each other out. It’s fun to watch, because they all get along.”

The goaltending duties for the Golden Bears are being shared by a pair of seniors in Gino Glover and Milton Rua.

Rua is the returning starter in net. Glover has never played before.

“Gino is very athletic and just has that knack of being a goalie,” Jelcic said. “He’s done well. Milton has been the starter for three years. They get along together well. Whoever is the best goalie that day will start.”

The sweeper is senior Doug DaSilva, who showed his versatility last year when he went into the net to replace Rua, who was injured.

The stopper is junior Mark DiMeglio, who has made the transition from the junior varsity to varsity.

The other defenders are senior Flavio Varrios, who started last season, and junior Leonardo Gil.

Senior Nick Pacheco is the defensive midfielder and handles that role well.

Also returning is Raymond Valenzuela, who had 13 goals and eight assists from the Golden Bears’ midfield last year.

“We tried him at striker, but he’s more comfortable in the midfield,” Jelcic said of Valenzuela. “Every time he gets the ball, he can do something with it. He has a great shot on goal and runs up and down the field.”

The other midfielders are junior Adrian Baranowski and Anthony Oliveira, a transfer from Brazil.

The forwards are Luis Yolines and junior Vinnie DiTonto, who had 16 goals as a sophomore. Look for those numbers to improve this season. DiTonto is much stronger and quicker than he was a year ago.

The Golden Bears opened their 2016 season with a 6-0 win over Leonia last Thursday. They had a game scheduled against Bergen Charter Monday.

“This team looks the best in training camp that we’ve had in my three years,” Jelcic said. “The scoring will be there. I’m a little concerned about the back end. But I think we’ll be okay there. This is the most excited I’ve been in my three years. It’s the most athletic team we’ve had and I think that gives us a shot.”

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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.”