The official record may read just 1-12, but the Harrison High School girls’ soccer team is still trying its collective best to keep their heads up and maintain a sense of pride and dignity.
“The season has been very difficult, but we’re still trying to have fun,” said Harrison first-year head girls’ soccer coach Kaitlyn Lima. “We’re keeping a positive attitude and having fun. We just keep coming back and we’re having fun.”
Lima, a former standout player first at Kearny High, then later New Jersey City University and St. Peter’s University, said that the upbeat approach begins with ideas both on and off the field.
“We start off by having fun games for warm-ups,” Lima said. “There’s a lot of team bonding with things that don’t even include soccer. We have pasta parties. We recently did an egg toss that was a lot of fun.”
But after defeating Ridgefield, 3-1, on Sept. 29, there hasn’t been a heck of a lot to cheer for.
“It’s been difficult, enduring some tough losses,” said Lima, whose team lost to Newark East Side at Red Bull Arena back on Sept. 15. “It’s been a learning experience for both me and the girls. But we all have to learn from it. One of our main goals was to improve. I think we’ve done that. We also wanted to build the program and I think we’ve done that. We’ve worked hard since Day One. We have some freshmen who are going to develop.”
Lima said that she has seen some positive signs of late.
“We have more ball control now,” Lima said. “We’re turning with the ball and moving forward. We’re trying to take more shots at the goal. We definitely have improved.”
Lima said that the Blue Tide is determined to keep the expectations fairly low.
“We’re not looking for anything big,” Lima said. “We’re taking baby steps first. The first goal was to get better and that’s been a bonus for us.”
And there’s no doubt about the Blue Tide’s collective attitude. They’re not quitting for anything or anyone.
“That’s what I love about them,” Lima said. “They play hard throughout every game. They never stop playing until the final whistle.”
Lima said that the Blue Tide was a little overwhelmed when they played Newark East Side at Red Bull Arena.
“I think playing at Red Bull, the girls got a little nervous,” Lima said. “It’s a big field and a lot of people were there. I think they enjoyed where they were a lot. But we got caught up in it a little. We just had to keep going and we did.”
Lima said that the Blue Tide’s camaraderie has been nothing but positive.
“I think our team chemistry is better,” said the 24-year-old Lima, who coached the junior varsity at Harrison before taking over as head coach this season. “I don’t think anyone had chemistry before. We’re more together now and do things together.”
Before the season started, Lima instituted a new program.
“Each girl was assigned a sister on the team,” Lima said. “That goes even outside of soccer. They have to look after their little sister.”
Lima said she got the idea from new Harrison head football coach Danny Hicks.
“It wasn’t a bad idea at all,” Lima said. “Even when it comes to school, they have to look after their sister. When they say their sister, some teachers heard that and asked, ‘Is that really your sister?’ They have to explain that it’s their soccer sister.”
The team’s goaltender is sophomore Melissa Toth, who has been nothing short of spectacular in goal for the Blue Tide.
“She’s saved us a lot,” Lima said of Toth, who made an incredible 32 saves in a single game earlier this season. “She’s been working hard back there for us. I think a lot of her ability in goal comes natural. She’s been working a lot with the boys’ goalkeepers to improve her skills there.”
The Blue Tide utilizes the “flat four” or “four across” alignment defensively.
The center back is senior Michelle Angamarca, who is a returning starter from a year ago. Also in the middle is senior Virginia Zelma. The Blue Tide uses four different girls at the other defender slots. Seniors Lizete Afonso. Emely Escuza and Virginia Sacramento and sophomore Jocelyn Esteban are the other defenders.
Sophomore Jessica Horvaht is the team’s center midfielder. Horvaht scored a goal in the win over Ridgefield.
The other midfielders are juniors Brianna Guinn and Nicole Estremadoyro and sophomore Kendall Coello. Guinn also scored a goal in the win over Ridgefield.
The forwards are freshmen Emely Arguelles and Kiara Oseguera. Arguelles also scored a goal in the team’s lone win. Both freshmen have expressed an interest in playing club soccer during the offseason and Lima is going to try her best to have that request fulfilled.
Other players on the Blue Tide roster include senior forward Bianca Reis, junior forward Bhritnny Palacios, junior forward/ defender Kiara Thomas, sophomore forward/defender Jennifer Rueda, sophomore midfielder and backup goaltender Jessica Altamirano, freshman midfielder Julieta Laurens and freshman defender Meekela Guillen.
Two of Lima’s teammates at Kearny (Class of 2012) serve as her assistant coaches in Kelly McDonald and Alana Howell.
Lima believes that the young ages of the coaching staff aids in the development of the Blue Tide players.
“I definitely think it does help,” Lima said. “We all get out on the practice field and train with them. We’re all close in age with them. If they have a problem, they can go to Kelly, Alana and me and talk to us. I think it helps with the team chemistry and all. We were in their shoes not too long ago.”
Lima realizes that the Blue Tide won’t become winners overnight.
“It’s a building process,” Lima said. “We have to take the time to develop them as players. It’s not all about wins. It’s about making progress. I think if we do that, the wins will come. It’s a learning process for all of us. We’re taking it day by day.”
The Blue Tide has games against Butler and Elmwood Park this week. Maybe the trend upwards will continue this week.
The Harrison girls’ soccer team is trying to improve. Front row, from left, are Michelle Angamarca and Bianca Reis. Back row, from left, are Emely Escuza, Melissa Toth, head coach Kaitlyn Lima and Virginia Zelma. 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.”