Nutley’s Steck becomes school’s all-time goal scoring champ

aowIt’s almost unfair that there’s not a video component to The Observer Athlete of the Week feature. It’s almost unkind that the only way a play, an event can be described is through the printed word.
Because if there were video highlights of what Zoe Steck did recently for the Nutley High School girls’ soccer team, it would be much easier to report. You could click on an arrow online or on your tablet or Smartphone and watch the magic that the senior forward Steck provided for onlookers recently.

“I’m telling you I hadn’t seen anything like it since (former United States national team captain) Claudio Reyna,” said Nutley head coach Mike DiPiano, who grew up watching Reyna during his days at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. “We were playing Glen Ridge and Zoe took a shot with her left foot from about 25 yards out. The thing knuckled like two or three times and went to the side of the net. It was one of the prettiest goals I’ve seen in high school.”

Steck admitted it was a “pretty goal.”

“I made really good contact with the ball,” Steck said. “It was great.”

Then, there’s the goal last Friday afternoon against Verona that gave Steck the 80th goal of her career, which enabled her to break the Nutley all-time goal scoring record.

“The ball was played to the middle of the field and Zoe dove for the ball to play it over the goalkeeper’s head,” DiPiano explained. “She then got back to the ball and hit the ball into the goal without it hitting the ground. It was amazing.”

“I saw that I could get it over her (the Verona keeper), so I just chipped it up and got it over her,” Steck said. “I then got to the ball first. It was a really good goal for me.”

It capped a three-goal uprising in the Maroon Raiders’ 4-0 victory. It also gave Steck 14 goals on the young season in just seven games, with the Maroon Raiders now holding an impressive 6-0-1 record.

The 80th goal of Steck’s career enabled her to surpass the previous record of 79, set by Steck’s former teammate Victoria Kealy two years ago. Kealy is now playing at Rider University.

“Victoria was such a great goal scorer,” Steck said. “It’s an honor and special to be in that same category.”

Steck was destined for greatness before she ever entered Nutley High.

“Since I saw her growing up, I knew she was very special,” DiPiano said. “As a freshman, she made an impact immediately and kept improving little by little. I knew that we were lucky to have her. When she was in middle school, she used to knock the ball around with the boys’ team because her brother (Adam) was on the team. So when she came, we were finally glad to have her in the program. She was dynamic and could score from anywhere.”

When Steck joined the Maroon Raiders’ varsity program, she never even dreamed she could become the all-time leading goal scorer.

“It wasn’t in my mind,” Steck said. “I just wanted to do well. I wasn’t expecting that this would happen. After my freshman year, I thought that it was definitely possible, but I wasn’t sure. I had confidence in my teammates, the 17 other girls who helped me get the opportunity to score. There are others who I played with over the years who also helped.”
Steck was asked if she has improved as a player over her brilliant four-year career.

“I’ve definitely grown from playing in high school,” Steck said. “I’ve been able to get into position to score. That’s how I play. It’s a big confidence booster when I do score. So I think I’ve become a better player.”

Steck has already declared her intentions to sign a national letter of intent to play at the University of Connecticut next fall.

“I’m very excited for that,” Steck said. “I committed my sophomore year, so I’ve known for a while. But it’s getting closer. I’m going there for my official visit next weekend. I’m getting super excited for that.”

Steck said that she did something a little different this summer to prepare for her final soccer season.

“I did nothing,” Steck said. “I rested. After club soccer was over (the renowned PDA program), I just took a break. I took some time off. I knew it was my last year before college, so I acted like a teenager. I went to the beach, spent time with my friends. I had to shut it down for a while, so I could feel stronger in training and practices. I feel like I’m peaking at the right time. I feel very confident.”

Steck isn’t about to stop scoring goals.

“She wants to get to 100,” DiPiano said. “It could happen. She’s really stepped it up this year. She’s done an excellent job in being the team leader, a teammate and a friend. She’s just a fantastic kid. She has a high soccer IQ who works extremely hard at her craft. She knows the sport. She embraces that knowledge and it shows.”

DiPiano believes Steck has helped Nutley reach new heights, both locally and around the state.

“She’s huge for this program,” DiPiano said. “My daughter (Mia) plays for the Nutley United 12-and-under team and they all look up to Zoe. It’s huge for the town to have someone like Zoe. Girls from around the town all want to be like Zoe. It’s great for the town. Girls’ soccer is very healthy in Nutley right now. Zoe has paved the way and leaves a great legacy.”

Before that, Steck has a career with the Maroon Raiders that she has to complete.

“I just played poorly,” Steck said. “I had to bounce back. But I feel overall I’ve played pretty well. The team has played well and they’re all pushing each other. Things are going well this year. I think we have a pretty good team, one that can compete.”

Nutley’s opposition is finding that out the hard way this season, thanks to a solid leader like Zoe Steck.


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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.”