Belleville girls’ soccer: Gaining momentum

The Belleville High School girls’ soccer team posted a 13-5 record a year ago, which was the best record the program ever produced.

Veteran coach Beth Ann Garrett, the Lyndhurst native and soccer standout who once coached at Felician College, watched her fledgling program defeat Bloomfield in the Essex County Tournament and knock off Colonia in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs last season.

“It definitely was developing at the forefront of what we’re striving for,” Garrett said of last year’s success. “But we’re building a program here. It’s not just a season. We want to use what we did last year as a building block. We worked hard and we were successful, but that’s just the start. We had a strong nucleus of juniors and sophomores who got a lot of playing time last year.”

Garrett was also pleased to see a lot of her players participate with the BeElite travel program that went to the national tournament in Colorado over the summer.

“They’re a very coachable group of girls,” Garrett said. “They’re very receptive to listening and learning. They understand what I’m trying to do. We’re passing the ball, getting everyone involved. That’s the plan for the season as we try to win games. We want to have everyone contribute. If we do, then I think we can hang with some of the best teams in Essex County.”

The Buccaneers went undefeated in the Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division last year, so they have moved up to the Liberty Division this season.

The Liberty Division includes matches with local rivals Nutley and Bloomfield, but also includes tougher competition from Newark Academy, Cedar Grove, Mount St. Dominic, West Essex and Millburn.

“We like playing the tougher competition,” Garrett said. “We expect to do well.”

The Buccaneers started off on the right track last week when they defeated Caldwell, 3-1, to start the season.

“We have a lot of experienced players who saw significant playing time last year,” Garrett said.

Leading the way is senior goalkeeper and team captain Janelle Ramirez, who made 10 saves in the win over Caldwell to begin the new year.

“Janelle came in this year even stronger than last year,” Garrett said. “She’s more vocal. She’s great on making saves on breakaways. She has the height and strength. She also has the right understanding of what she needs to do. She’s a lot more agile and mobile. She’s a good keeper and a good anchor to our defense.”

The sweeper duties are being shared by senior Nathalie Abreu and junior Samantha Doherty.

“They have different styles,” Garrett said of her two sweepers. “Nat has more experience, but it’s good to have more options back there.”
The stopper is junior Gabriela Lopez, who was the team’s stopper all of last season. Lopez scored a goal in the win over Caldwell.

The rest of the defensive line includes senior Nubiyah Tanner, junior Jaylyanna Bratcher and freshmen Tania Melgar and Caroline Higa.

Junior Cesia Diaz returns to her center midfield slot, where she earned All-SEC Colonial honors last year, scoring 15 goals. Diaz tallied a goal in the victory over Caldwell.

“She’s solid in the midfield,” Garrett said of Diaz. “She has great vision and she can also beat people with the dribble. She knows when to distribute the ball.”

Freshman Tiffany Escobar plays a defensive midfield role, along with juniors Kayla Cabezas and freshmen Chennaya Tschopp and Akemi Kanashiro.

“We have a talented group of freshmen,” Garrett said. “They played well for us in the summer league.”

Senior Angela Tran, a former volleyball player, and junior Alejandra Rodriguez are also in the midfield.

“I can play Alejandra anywhere on the field,” Garrett said. “She’s solid.”

Senior Lindsey Riera is the top returning player on the forward line. Riera had 16 goals last year and contributed two assists in the win over Caldwell.

“She’s an exciting player who can put the ball in the back of the net,” Garrett said.

Senior Krystal Rasczyk also returns. She had eight goals and 15 assists last year and started the new season off with a goal.

“She’s one of the top assist leaders in the league,” Garrett said. “She keeps the ball moving.”

Senior Marianna de la Cruz and freshman Sophia Bojorquez are also solid contributors on the forward line.

“We definitely have a tough schedule,” Garrett said. “But I believe we’ll be competitive.”

Sure looks that way already, as the Buccaneers have matches this week against Science Park and Mount St. Dominic.




The Belleville girls’ soccer team will look to improve on the 13-win season of a year ago and the SEC-Colonial Division championship the Bucs won. Front row, from left, are Gabriela Lopez, Tania Melgar and Caroline Higa. Back row, from left, are Alejandra Rodriguez, Janelle Ramirez, Nathalie Abreu and head coach Beth Ann Garrett. Photo by Jim Hague



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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.”