Lyndhurst girls’ soccer enjoying solid 6-0 start

Kim Hykey has enjoyed some strong starts in her nine seasons as the head coach of the Lyndhurst High School girls’ soccer program, but never anything like what the Golden Bears have exploded out to in 2018.

Simply put, the Golden Bears have been perfect. Six games, six shutout victories.

“I think it’s the best start ever,” Hykey said. “I know we’ve never gone 6-0 with six shutouts. The girls are pumped and playing well.”
Hykey said that the early season success this season points back to the way the 2017 season ended. Although the Golden Bears finished 18-4-2 a year ago, they were not content with the final mark and the loss to Hanover Park in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs.

“We were not happy with the way last year ended,” Hykey said. “We were so close as a team, even outside soccer and it ended so fast. So I think we came in this preseason with a sense of cohesion. You could tell that there was a different focus. The seniors realized that they have come so close to doing something special and that this was it, their last chance. There was a sense of urgency that this was their final hurrah. I think they were able to step it up.”

Hykey likes the level of consistency the Golden Bears have had.

“What I’ve been impressed with is that they’ve been coming with the same attitude no matter who we’re playing,” Hykey said. “They’ve been able to maintain a good level of intensity every game. They’ve been consistent and persistent no matter the opponent.”

It has shown with the six wins without allowing a goal.

That all starts and ends with the goalkeeper who has posted the clean sheets every match.

Senior Isabella Castagnetti has been nothing short of sensational in the early going, collecting six straight shutouts. The standout net minder, who has already declared her intentions to play at the College of Holy Cross next fall, has been rock solid in net.

Hykey said that Castagnetti has taken it up a notch after a trip to the Worcester, Massachusetts campus before the season started.

“She went on her official visit there and really liked it,” Hykey said. “After that, she was good to go. She got to see what it’s going to be like next year and she really just became more relaxed and at ease. I knew that we were going to be in good hands. She’s focused and has been playing at a high level. She’s really been stellar back there. She’s been on the same page with the three senior defenders in the back. To have six shutouts has been really special. She’s a gem.”

The Golden Bears utilize the “four-across” alignment with their defense.

The center backs are sophomores Maggie Fodera and Gia Estrella. Both started on the Lyndhurst back line last year and that year of experience is paying huge dividends right now.

Senior Rachel Bocage is a three-year starter on the Lyndhurst back line. She’s a solid leader who has taken charge in the back line.

Sophomore Alex Tortorello is the fourth defender who has stepped up and joined the other three returning starters.

The defensive midfielder is senior Alyssa Engels, who is a three-year starter in the midfield.

The other midfielders are the Yallo sisters, namely junior Karlee Yallo and sophomore Kaydee Yallo. The elder sister has a rocket of a shot and the younger sister has been one of the Golden Bears’ top scorers with six goals and five assists thus far.

“They both have a great soccer IQ,” Hykey said of the Yallo sisters. “They are fundamentally sound and make me feel at ease. They don’t have to be told what to do. They’re both smart enough to know what has to be done. It helps to strengthen the team.”
What also helps the team’s overall success is the level of familiarity the team has.

“There are six girls on the team who have been playing together since they were eight years old,” Hykey said.

They played on a travel youth team called LOL, which stands for the Ladies of Lyndhurst. It is obviously no laughing matter, considering the level of success.

Senior Giulia Pezzolla is the team’s stalwart in the midfield. The veteran Pezzolla, also a standout for Hykey in track and field in the winter and spring, has scored six goals and has four assists thus far. Pezzolla moves from the midfield to the forward line depending upon the situation, but has spent most of the season with the midfield thus far.

“We need Giulia more in the midfield because of her speed,” Hykey said.

Another solid midfielder is sophomore Deirdre Kearns.

“She’s so tenacious and tough,” Hykey said. “She’s relentless. She goes after the ball so hard and runs down defenders all the time. She’s just a tough, competitive kid.”

Senior Gianna Fallacarra is solid at forward. Fallacarra has three goals and four assists thus far.

The Golden Bears have a lot of depth in midfield, so Hykey can call upon junior Madison Schaefer, sophomores Joelle Montillo and Jessa Della’Aquila and freshman Francesca Castagnetti, Isabella’s younger sister, when needed.

Senior Lauren Ferschweiler is a solid defender off the bench.

“She’s a great kid and a hard worker,” Hykey said of Ferschweiler.


Another freshman seeing playing time is forward Aliya Keith, who brings a ton of potential to the front line.

“She used to be a defender that we’ve converted to the front this year,” Hykey said. “She has all the tools to be a good one. She just needs the time to learn. But she has great speed and she has that toughness as well.”

Freshman Meghan Docherty is another contributor on the front line. Freshman Claudia Lapinski is a goalkeeper learning to play the position.

The Golden Bears suffered a tough blow when senior defender Samantha Cardaci suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. The surgery to repair the injury will force Cardaci to miss her entire senior season.

So the Golden Bears continue to roll. The Bergen County Girls Soccer Coaches Association was set to meet after press time to determine the seeding of the upcoming Bergen County Tournament. With their undefeated record, the Golden Bears should get a favorable seed and a home game in the opening round of the county tournament.

“The girls are all dialed in,” Hykey said. “We have a very clear goal this season. We want to go further (in the county tourney and state playoffs). This could be the most talented team we’ve ever had. It’s all there. We have to see what happens.”

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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.”