Winning a league championship has become a habit for the Lyndhurst High School girls’ soccer team.
After all, the Golden Bears recently captured their sixth straight North Jersey Interscholastic League-Liberty Division championship and the ninth league title ever since Kim Hykey took over as head coach.
But don’t for a minute think that the winning has become old hat for Hykey and the Golden Bears.
“It definitely does not get old,” Hykey said. “We have a different team with a different group of seniors. It’s a different battle. For the freshmen, it’s all new. There’s different team chemistry.”
Hykey said that she got a sense that the Golden Bears were going to be a solid squad during a successful summer league stint.
“We got a taste of what it was going to be like,” Hykey said. “We felt that the freshmen were going to have an impact. They got a feel like it’s what they’re supposed to do. Their eyes were on the bigger prize. So we felt like it was definitely within reach.”
The Golden Bears won all three games they played last week, securing the sixth straight NJIC-Liberty crown.
“It was a good week to roll into the (NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II) state tournament,” Hykey said. “After the Dwight-Englewood game (a 1-0 loss Oct. 17), it shook us a little. So we had a different formation to introduce.”
Since the strategy change, the Golden Bears have reeled off wins against Butler, a perennially-tough Mahwah squad and Leonia to get themselves prepared for the upcoming state playoffs.
“We feel like we’re in good place,” Hykey said.
Leading the way for the Golden Bears is junior midfielder Kaydee Yallo, who has been a godsend for the Golden Bears.
“Kaydee played really well against Mahwah,” Hykey said about the 2-1 victory, a game where the younger Yallo sister, who has already given a verbal commitment to play collegiate soccer at Northeastern University in the fall of 2021. “She nailed a 25-yarder in that game and she hit the post earlier in the game. She is locked in.”
Kaydee Yallo has 17 goals and five assists on the season.
“She’s definitely what we’ve been lacking the last few seasons,” Hykey said. “She’s a good scorer. She’s embracing that role of being the leader. She’s really coming into her own.”
The elder Yallo, Karlee, is a senior, one of the few seniors on the roster.
Junior Deirdre Kearns is another solid midfielder, with five goals.
“Her biggest impact is her consistent relentless attack,” Hykey said of Kearns. “She has developed good ball control and can beat you off the dribble.”
Sophomore forward Aliya Keith has developed into a big-time contributor.
“She has really turned it on,” Hykey said. “She can neutralize a defense by going to goal with control. She has really hunkered down and become a fotce.”
Junior Maggie Fodera has been entrenched along the Golden Bears’ back line, but in reality, Fodera can play anywhere.
“She does it all,” Hykey said of Fodera. :She’s the most composed player on the ball that I can remember. She lives for the big game and she’s proving it.”
Freshman Madison Weaver, the daughter of Lyndhurst famed wrestling coach Scot Weaver and sister of wrestler Dylan who finished third at 138 pounds in the state last February, is a standout forward.
“Her aggressiveness and physicality has been impressive,” Hykey said.
Sophomore Claudia Lapinski has emerged as the starting goalkeeper. She didn’t have it easy, replacing a legend like Isabella Castagnetti, now manning the nets for the College of Holy Cross, but Lapinski has handled it well.
“She’s done all she can do,” Hykey said. “She’s putting in a ton of effort and she’s getting better every day. She’s in training all the time, working with a personal trainer on her speed. She tries very hard. She dives well for the ball and goes block to block well.”
The defensive back line is spearheaded by Fodera and juniors Gia Estrella, Julia McCann and Alexa Tortorella.
The Golden Bears are the top seed of the North Jersey Section 2, Group II bracket. They play Ridgefield Park in the first round and could possibly face Parsippany in the second round. The time of year has come to either win or go home.
“I definitely feel good about our chances,” Hykey said of the state playoffs. “I’m definitely very nervous, but I think we’ll be okay. From what I’ve seen, I do feel we can beat anyone (in the section).”
We will see. Things do look good.
Lyndhurst junior midfielder Kaydee Yallo. Photo by Jim Hague
Lyndhurst junior midfielder Deirdre Kearns. 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.”