North Arlington girls’ soccer: Life without Seca

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-33-25-amThe North Arlington High School girls’ soccer team won 17 games last year, one of the highest win totals in school history. The Vikings advanced all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals, where they lost to perennial state power Glen Ridge.

Needless to say, it was a year to remember for the program.

But those days are history. Those days are gone because Joanna Seca is gone. The best girls’ soccer player in school history has taken her immense talent to NCAA Division I school Drexel (where she’s already making her presence felt).

“It’s a different game plan,” said North Arlington head coach Dan Farinola. “Joanna brought so much to the table. If we needed a score, we always knew that Joanna would just take care of it. We have to move on.”

So the Vikings have begun the new era of North Arlington soccer _ without Seca.

“We’re not looking for one person to replace Joanna,” Farinola said. “There are very few like her. Now we feel like we’re getting more people involved. It’s not just all Joanna. She’s a tough talent to replace, but I believe we could get by, because we bring back a lot of experienced players.”

Senior Kaitlin Cappuccino is the goalkeeper.

“We moved her to goalie her sophomore year and it was a good move,” Farinola said. “She’s such a good athlete. She has good hands and I think that comes from playing basketball. She’s had to learn how to play the position and she’s doing a good job.”

The sweeper is junior Carli Mullins.

“She has endless energy,” Farinola said. “She’s a smart player and a good leader for us back there.”

Seniors Missy Torres and Callie Evanchick are also returning stalwarts on the back line.

“The defense had its best year last year,” Farinola said. “They’re all back. Missy is the most physical of the defenders, but they all do an excellent job.”

The Vikings play five players on the midfield. Sophomore Emily Cordova has moved up to the midfield from the stopper she played last year. Cordova is asked to concentrate more on her defense, but she’s been moved up to take advantage of her quickness.

Sophomore Sam DiPopolo is another midfielder.

“Sam is just a great athlete,” Farinola said. “She played forward last year. We moved her back because she can make plays. She can take the ball and go.”

Senior Kelly Lennon is another midfielder. Lennon scored eight goals last year.

“But she’s really progressed as an offensive threat,” Farinola said.

Sophomore Gabriella Alvarez has earned her place among the Viking midfielders.

“She knows the game well and she’s very versatile,” Farinola said. “I just felt that she best fit our needs on the outside.”

Sophomore Samantha Smith has made a huge splash so far in the Viking midfield. Smith already has four goals in the Vikings’ two wins over Weehawken and Wood-Ridge.

Smith had 18 goals last year as a nice compliment to Seca. Now, Smith has to become more of a scorer.

“She has the same mindset as Joanna had,” Farinola said of Smith. “She’s very quick and she’s good with the ball. She’s a talented player who can shoot with both feet. That’s the big improvement she’s made. She’s able to go with her left.”

Junior Kaitlyn Stajek also returns. Stajek scored 19 goals from her forward position.

“She has to take the step up this year, like get 20,” Farinola said.

Stajek currently has two goals in the first two games of the season.

Sophomore Melissa Montesinos is another scoring threat along the front line.

Sophomore Gabbi Marques is a transfer who is now getting her feet wet with the Vikings’ program.

“She’s going to help us,” Farinola said of Marques, who will play either midfield or forward.

Another key contributor will be senior Nicole Guerra.

“Nicole does a little bit of everything for us,” Farinola said. “She’s a good person to have coming off the bench.”

The Vikings have some tough games ahead, like a showdown with Hasbrouck Heights this week.

“We really think we can be competitive again this season,” Farinola said. “After four games, we should know a lot about ourselves.”

What they have learned already is that life without Seca isn’t all that bad.

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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.”