Nutley girls’ soccer off to rousing 4-0 start

The Nutley High School girls’ soccer team had an unconventional 9-10-1 record a year ago.

In the eyes of veteran head coach Mike DiPiano, the results might not have been there for the Maroon Raiders, but the effort was certainly there.

“We lost seven games by a single goal,” said DiPiano, the busiest coach at Nutley who is also the head wrestling coach and an assistant coach for the highly successful softball program. “People look at our record and don’t realize that fact, that we were really close in all of our games. But we just didn’t score enough last year. It’s really tough when you lose so many games by one goal.”

When one looks at the Maroon Raiders’ 2018 roster, there might not be the standout superstars like Zoe Steck (Connecticut) and Jennifer Callaghan (NJIT) were for the Maroon Raiders in years past, but there are a lot of talented players who grace the current roster.

“We don’t need to have one player scoring 20 goals,” DiPiano said. “Maybe we need to have four or five players to score about seven goals. We have a young team with seven freshmen on the varsity and seven freshmen who will see significant time. It’s not a problem in my eyes. It just happens a little quicker for them. All seven freshmen have a high soccer IQ. They step onto the field and they know what they have to do.”

DiPiano watched as his talented crop of freshmen played all over the country this summer with club team Nutley United, as well as other local associations.

“A couple of them played in national tournaments,” DiPiano said. “All seven freshmen have played against top competition. It’s going to make us a deeper team and in turn, we’ll have a healthier team at the end of the season. The depth of this team is something we’re excited about.”

The Maroon Raiders will make the move up in the competitive world of the Super Essex Conference, becoming a member of the tougher Liberty Division with schools like Mount St. Dominic, Newark Academy, Caldwell, Bloomfield, Verona, Cedar Grove and neighboring rival Belleville.

“Even though we have a young team, we want to play the top competition,” DiPiano said. “So far, I like what I see. I really think we can surprise some people.”

Obviously, something is working well in the early stages of the season, because the Maroon Raiders have posted an impressive 4-0 record thus far.

Nutley started the season with a stellar 3-2 win over Westwood, then post three straight shutouts against Ridgefield Park (5-0), Cedar Grove (6-0) and against perennial NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV power Montclair by a final score of 1-0 last Friday.

The win over Montclair was extremely impressive, considering that Montclair contends for a state championship every year and is always one of the best teams in the Super Essex Conference.

One of the talented freshmen that DiPiano referred to is forward Mackenzie Albert, who has started off her high school career in fine fashion, scoring three goals and collecting three assists. Albert scored the game’s lone goal in the win over Montclair last Friday.

“I’ve been looking forward to her playing with us for a while,” DiPiano said. “I think she’s going to score a lot of goals for us. She’s played all year for different club teams and has shown the ability to score with either foot. She can also score from all over the field.”

Another top scorer is senior midfielder Emily DeAngelo, who also has scored three goals thus far, including two in the win over Ridgefield Park.

“She’s been starting since her freshman year,” DiPiano said. “She has an electric right foot. She’s also a very tough defender.”

Senior forward Giulia Polewka also has three goals in the early going.

“She plays well with her back to the goal,” DiPiano said. “She’s very strong and we play well off her.”

Junior midfielder Samantha Gabriele is the fourth Maroon Raider with three goals in the early going. Gabriele also has two assists.

“She’s going to rotate around,” DiPiano said. “We’re going to rotate her around. When we need to bring her up front (to the forward line), we will do it. She’s a special player. She does not play her size and doesn’t let her size get to her. She’s a dynamic player who makes things happen with the ball.”

So DiPiano was right. He doesn’t have a 30-plus goal scorer on the roster, but right now, he has four players with three goals each.

Senior Alessandra Santoriello has seen the majority of time in goal and has made 12 saves, including eight saves in the shutout win over Montclair.

“She split time last year with the varsity,” DiPiano said.

Sophomore Sarah Cortese will also see time in goal.

“Sarah is very athletic and covers the goal well,” DiPiano said. “It’s good that we have depth in goal.”

The team’s sweeper is senior captain Danielle Lohf, who is a three-year starter, but takes over the sweeper responsibilities for the first time.

“She leads by example,” DiPiano said. “She does all the things you want from a leader.”

Lohf is taking over the role of being the Maroon Raiders’ sweeper, replacing four-year starter Lauren Holden, now playing at the University of Scranton.

The team’s stopper is senior Melanie Conca, who also plays softball and is a member of the boys’ hockey team.

The other two starting defenders are junior Kristina Lopomo and sophomore Kaitlyn Gauidia. Both saw considerable action last year. Lopomo is a natural midfielder who has fit in well at defender.

In the midfield, freshmen twin sisters Rebecca and Rachel Echeverria, along with freshmen Natalie Rufino and Isabella Bianchi are sharing time with seniors Jordan Burbank and Amanda Cagiao.

“We’re just going to go with whomever is the hot player,” DiPiano said. “I think Rufino will be on the field, because she’s a very skilled player. Eventually, she will be a center midfielder.”

In reserve, DiPiano can call upon senior defensemen Skyler Hutchison and Jill Garner, junior midfielder Maria Marucci, sophomore midfielder Anna Contini and freshman midfielder Olivia Real and freshman forward Sidney Hess,

“I’m encouraged,” DiPiano said. “I think we’re going to use all that depth to our advantage.”

The bottom line is that the Maroon Raiders will be much improved over last year, They’re already halfway there and the season is still in its infant stages.




The Maroon Raiders of Nutley should be an improved team over last year. Front row, from left, are Rachel Echevarria, Danielle Lohf and Kaitlyn Gauidia. Back row, from left, are head coach Mike DiPiano, Melanie Conca, Alessandra Santoriello, Sarah Cortese and Kristina Lopomo. 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.”