Lyndhurst’s Pezzolla a shining star with a brighter future

It didn’t take far for Giulia Pezzolla to find the wherewithal and strength to become a standout two-sport athlete.

Giulia found it right in her own living room, from her mother, the former Doris Ann Vacca, who was a standout softball player at Lyndhurst High School _ where Giulia attends _ and Ramapo College, where Doris has been a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame since 2002.

“She motivated me a lot,” Pezzolla said. “She takes me a lot of places in order to get better (as a soccer player) and to camps so I can get noticed for college. She’s a big influence on me.”

“She’s done everything for her,” Lyndhurst head girls’ soccer coach Kim Hykey said. “Giulia gets the best support and she’s reaping the benefits of that.”

Hykey remembers seeing Pezzolla play as a youngster.

“She was on a team with (current Lyndhurst goalkeeper) Izzy (Castagnetti) and I was going to 8-year-old kids’ travel games to see them,” Hykey said. “Giulia was impressive as an 8-year-old.”

Seven years later, Pezzolla is still impressing people.

“Her foot skills are amazing,” Hykey said. “She can stop on a dime and cut left or right. She creates distance with her speed. She can control the ball better than most. Her technical skills are superb.”

Pezzolla said that ability with her feet has come with hard work.

“I usually practice a lot with the club teams I play for,” Pezzolla said. “I work on my skills a lot.”

That work has especially paid off this season, after Hykey moved Pezzolla from the midfield, where she played last year, scoring seven goals and adding 18 assists, to forward this year. The 18-assist total tied for the high water mark among all freshmen in New Jersey a year ago.

“She set people up well,” Hykey said. “We knew we were going to have to rely on her this year.”

But instead of keeping Pezzolla in her spot among the midfield, Hykey moved her to forward for this season.

“In the summer, I felt like we needed some speed,” Hykey said. “So I knew Giulia was one of the fastest kids on the team. I knew she could play anywhere. She’s just that type of kid.”

Pezzolla didn’t mind the position change.

“I’ve played forward before on my club team, so I thought I could handle it,” Pezzolla said. “I was a little worried at first. I thought it would be hard. I’ve played midfield more in my life, but I thought I might like forward more, because it was better for me than being outside. I could use my speed to my advantage by just outrunning the defender. I have a strong foot, so I could get off shots. I get more of a chance going one-on-one, just me and the other defender. I can use either foot to shoot, but I’m stronger with my right.”

Pezzolla must be doing something right with her feet, because lately, she’s become a goal-scoring machine for the Golden Bears.

Pezzolla scored two goals in a game against Queen of Peace, had one tally against Ridgefield, had two goals against Harrison and found the net three times for the hat trick against Secaucus.

For her efforts, Pezzolla has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Pezzolla now has 18 goals and 13 assists on the season.

“I never thought I’d get 18 goals,” Pezzolla said. “Last year, I only had seven, so I went up a lot. I knew I had to step up. My teammates have been passing me the ball in good situations. I knew this was the right time because we had to get ready for the states.”

The Golden Bears (15-3-1) are the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA North 2, Group II bracket and were scheduled to face Fort Lee in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday at home.

Hykey said that Pezzolla, only a sophomore, has the potential to become a Division I player down the road.

“She’s very good,” Hykey said. “She could be comparable to (Amanda) Fulcher (the Golden Bears’ senior midfielder and leader). Soccer is her thing. She goes to play soccer all the time. She’s a super talented kid. I think she can be a Division I athlete if she gets a little stronger. But she can run, that’s for sure.”
Pezzolla runs so well that Hykey has her on the outdoor track team in the spring.

“I run the distance races, like the 800 (meter) and the mile (1,600-meter), as well as the triple jump,” Pezzolla said. “I like track. When I do both, it keeps me really busy. I want to play soccer in college. I’m really motivated to do so. I’m going to go to more camps to get noticed. It’s about the right time to start thinking about college.”

For now, she’s content leading the Golden Bears into the postseason.

“I am a little surprised,” said Pezzolla, who is the granddaughter of Observer general manager Robert Pezzolla, but earned her distinction as Athlete of the Week without knowledge of the family connection. “I thought I’d have a tough time adjusting to the new position, but it’s worked out well.”

To say the least.


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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.”