Nutley girls’ soccer off to solid start

Mike DiPiano knew that his Nutley High School girls’ soccer team might have had to handle a few obstacles a year ago.

“We play in the Super Essex Conference-American Division, one of the best conferences in all sports,” said DiPiano, who began his fifth season as head girls’ soccer coach this season. “So our schedule was loaded by design. To be prepared, we even booked tough out of conference games.”

The result was a 13-9 campaign and a trip to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinals.

This season, the Maroon Raiders have been moved to the North Jersey Section 1 bracket, so things are a little different.

“The goal is still the same,” DiPiano said. “We want to get to the states and win one. This is Year 5 of the program and this is the first time we talked about what we wanted to do. We knew that we had the team and if we stayed the course, the next step would be to win one (a state sectional championship).”

DiPiano has built the Maroon Raiders’ program to where it is today.

“We have 50 girls in the program now,” DiPiano said. “We have a lot of girls who play for the travel team Nutley United. A lot of our girls play all year round. It’s a healthy situation.”

The Maroon Raiders utilize two girls in the net, namely sophomore Alessandra Santoriello and junior Jillian DeSantis.

“It’s a battle between the two,” DiPiano said. “Both are capable. Both are very strong and bring different aspects of the game to our team. We just have to find a happy medium between the two.”

Junior Lauren Holden is the sweeper. Holden was a mainstay on the defense last year for the Maroon Raiders.

“She started every game back there for us,” DiPiano said. “She comes from a good Nutley family.”

Lauren’s older sister Emily, the softball great, is at Ithaca College.

“Lauren’s been starting since she was a freshman,” DiPiano said. “I think she’s going to have a big season for us.”

Senior Darby Fischer returns to the Maroon Raiders’ backline, which will only feature three players this year.

“To be talented enough to play varsity right away for me should tell you something,” DiPiano said. “We wanted to be able to use our talented players. To be able to use just three defenders brings us a ton of help in the midfield.”

Senior Angeli Bossbaly, sophomore Danielle Lohf and freshman Kristina LoPomo will see time among the three-man defensive set.

The center midfielder is senior Jenny Callaghan, who is off to a fine start, collecting two goals and an assist in the Maroon Raiders’ 5-2 win over Montclair Kimberley Academy last week.

“Jenny’s the field general,” DiPiano said of the NJIT-bound Callaghan. “She’s our motor. She’s the one who makes sure things are going well. All we do goes through her.”

Callaghan had six goals and nine assists all of last season, so she’s well on her way to bettering that mark.

Sophomore Emily DeAngelo is another returning starter at center midfield.

Junior Isabella Gonsiewski had 11 goals and 10 assists last year, so she should also expect to increase those numbers. She had a goal and an assist in the win over MKA.

Junior Maise Jelley was a spot starter last year, but she had a pretty good preseason _ good enough to catch the eye of her head coach.

“She’s worked very hard to get her playing time,” DiPiano said.

Senior Nicole Evans and sophomore Jordan Burbank are two other Maroon Raiders who will see considerable time in the midfield.

The forward is a household name in Nutley, because it only seems like she’s been around forever.

Zoe Steck is officially and finally a senior. Steck, who has already given UConn a heads-up that she’ll be attending there next fall, scored 22 goals and had nine assists last year. She has already scored seven goals this season, including the three-goal hat trick against Caldwell in a 4-1 win.

Steck has begun pursuit of Victoria Kealy’s career goal-scoring mark of 79. Steck now has 71 goals over her career.

“I think she deserves it,” said DiPiano. “If she wants to put her mind into it, she should break it easily.”

The other scoring machine is sophomore forward Giulia Polewka, who scored a goal in the Maroon Raiders’ romp over Wallington. Nutley owns a 3-0-1 mark at this point.

The Maroon Raiders also have a fine freshman class of skilled players, namely Samantha Gabrielle, Natalie Muzziato and Alli Balitsos. Gabrielle is the one who caught DiPiano’s eye.

“She does things with her feet that I’ve never seen before,” DiPiano said. “She’s going to score goals. She has the ability to beat anybody.”

DiPiano won’t look the gift horse in the mouth.

“We’re pleased with the start, but the tough part of the schedule is coming up,” DiPiano said.

Look for the Maroon Raiders to more than handle the tough part and be competitive to the very end.


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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.”