Lyndhurst soccer trio earns All-Academic honors at Felician

The Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, of which Felician University is a member, selects a team of soccer players, all needing a grade point average of 3.0 or better, to its All-Academic team.

Incredibly, of that select group are three Felician teammates who also happen to live in Lyndhurst and went to Lyndhurst High School.

Now, how remarkable is that? Not only three from the same school, but three from the same hometown and high school, well, that never happens.

“I wouldn’t have expected it,” said junior forward Amanda Nowak, who owns an impressive 3.81 grade point average majoring in accounting. “Lyndhurst is such a small town. You would never think we could get three from the same town.”

“It is wild,” said junior defender Dina Ingenito, who has a 3.51 GPA in marketing. “It just shows where you come from. It’s special to be a part of such a special group. It’s really great.”

Giana DeTonto is just a sophomore and a midfielder on the Falcons. But she has a 3.99 GPA majoring in biology.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” DiTonto said. “Our coach (Tom Notte) has a way of motivating each and every one of us. He makes us want to be good on the field and in the classroom. If you do your best in soccer and study on the side, you can do it.”

DiTonto wants to become a physician’s assistant one day.

“I sacrifice a lot of my free time, going out and such, because I have to study or play soccer,” DiTonto said. “I think we all do that and with that, it makes us look pretty good. It all works out. We’ve been playing soccer together since we were seven years old. I can’t imagine my life playing without them.”

Notte thinks his trio of classroom standouts represents what’s good about the school.

“I’m extremely proud of the success the young women have had in the classroom,” said Notte, whose team posted a 7-8-2 record this fall, playing most of their home games at the Lyndhurst Recreation compound. “They are truly what you hope of when you recruit student/athletes. You hope that strive for the best and when they do, it’s tremendous.

Added Notte, “A lot of people don’t understand what it takes to be a college student/athlete these days. They sometimes get on a bus for road games at 7 a.m. and don’t get home until 11 p.m. That’s a long day. And they’re still performing above most student/athletes in the student body. They’re attaining and work on lifetime skills. It’s impressive.”

Notte had something to say about each of his fine players.

Nowak, who made Second Team All-CACC after scoring 10 goals and adding three assists, is the lightning rod of the team.

“Amanda is one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever coached,” Notte said. “She’s one of the strongest players in the league and that has played a huge part of her success. She’s that full package that every coach wants.”

Nowak said that she decided upon Felician because of soccer.

“Soccer is what sold me,” Nowak said. “I knew I wanted to play soccer in college because of the amount of work I put into it. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Nowak is already on her way toward a successful career in accounting.

“There are so many connections that will come from being here at Felician,” said Nowak, who will pursue her Masters in business administration as part of Felician’s five-year program.

She is also already doing tax returns and bookkeeping.

“It’s definitely been a godsend coming here,” Nowak said. “It helps that Dina is here and we got Giana to help us out. It’s always good to have that kind of support from people you grew up with.”

Nowak was also happy with the way the season turned out. She started the season as an outside midfielder and was moved up front to provide a scoring punch.

“It started out iffy for us,” said Nowak, as the Falcons had a 1-6 mark in September. “I honestly thought it would be a rebuilding year for us. But somehow, we made the playoffs.”

The Falcons dropped only two of their last 10 games to make the CACC playoffs.

Ingenito is also well on her way toward her career. She has an internship lined up next semester with a Morris County firm.

“I take my schoolwork with a lot of pride,” Ingenito said. “It’s like a second job. The hard work I’ve put toward my grades has paid off. Getting this award means a lot.”

Ingenito knew she didn’t have to travel far to get a good education.

“I knew that they had a good business program at Felician,” Ingenito said. “It was a nice school. I wasn’t worried about going away to school. Felician fit me well. I wanted to play soccer in college and I was getting a good opportunity here. I knew I had Amanda coming with me, so that made it feel like it was high school all over again. Having all of us together now is great.”

To Ingenito, seeing Lyndhurst gain some positive recognition means a lot.

“It’s nice to see where we came from get noticed,” Ingenito said. “We started the season slow, but we ended up strong and that means a lot. We all improved a lot.”

As for being an Academic All-League honoree?

“I didn’t think I’d be where I am today,” Ingenito said. “I think I’ve proved myself wrong.”

“Dina is a phenomenal young lady,” Notte said. “She embodies what it’s like to be with a team. She’s among our hardest workers, day in and day out. She has definitely exceeded expectations.”

DiTonto also wanted to stay close to home and play soccer.

“It’s better to know people when I got here,” DiTonto said. “I didn’t have to make friends. I knew Amanda and Dina, so that was a big help.”

“Giana is another amazing young lady,” Notte said. “She also works very hard and never stops running. She literally is running the entire time. She’s always steady and knows what’s going on.”

Notte can’t believe that he has such three great student/athletes coming from the same town.

“My hat’s off to Lyndhurst,” Notte said. “And to their coach (Kim Hykey), who does a really good job of preparing them for college. They come to us physically fit and ready academically.”

“Coach Hykey really helped us,” DiTonto said. “She always pushed us to get good grades.”

And as for the future?

“C’mon, we play sports and we’re from Lyndhurst,” Nowak said. “There’s always competition. We always say, ‘Hey, did you make the Dean’s List?’ There’s competition between us, no question.”

The competition gets even a little tougher next year when freshman Joanne Arvanitakis becomes eligible for All-Academic honors. Arvanitakis, a defender, needs to complete a full 24 credits before she becomes eligible for the award, but the accounting major is right on line to join the trio next year.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to earn something like this with people I grew up with,” Nowak said. “Lyndhurst has always been a welcoming environment.”

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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.”