Great run by NA’s girls’ soccer ends in state semis

Mike Vivino didn’t know what to expect from his first year as the head girls’ soccer coach at North Arlington High School. Vivino came to North Arlington after serving as an assistant at Park Ridge for several seasons.

So when the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state playoffs began two weeks ago, Vivino’s Vikings were under .500 and recipients of the No. 11 seed in that bracket.

Vivino didn’t care what the seed was. He felt his team was hitting its stride when the state playoffs began.

“We were playing really well.” Vivino said. “The second time we played Lyndhurst, we lost, 3-1, but we were doing all the right things. I felt good about what we were doing.”

However, there was a little bit of an obstacle. The program was hit with the 14-day quarantine due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which definitely put all the momentum the Vikings were enjoying on hold.

“We didn’t touch a ball for two weeks,” Vivino said. “It was a little disappointing. We did the Google classroom thing to do workouts, but it wasn’t the same.  I was getting a positive response from them. They had enthusiasm. I knew they couldn’t wait to get back out there.”

So when the Vikings received the clearance to return to the field, they were more than ready.

“We dominated Harrison,” Vivino said. “We used all 11 players. Everyone contributed. Everyone defended. I think that’s when I knew we had a good run in us.”

Sure enough, the Vikings started to play extremely well, clicking on all cylinders. They had a solid win over Weehawken right before they were prepping to play sixth-seeded Saddle Brook in the opening round of the states.

“I did a little research and found out that they had two big goal scorers,” Vivino said.

Seniors Anna Memija (21 goals) and Mia Lopez (14 goals, 11 assists) were the two top scorers for the Falcons, who won their division in the North Jersey Interscholastic Division with a 10-2 record.

“I wondered if they had anyone else who could step in and score,” Vivino said. “We just had to make sure we used all of our players. I felt the reason why we could compete was the talent we had with all our players.”

The Vikings won, 4-2, thanks to the three-goal hat trick from freshman forward Lia Cruz and a goal and an assist each from senior midfielder Jordyn Nelson and sophomore midfielder Arancha Antunes.

From there, the Vikings moved on to face third-seeded Emerson Borough, a team with a solid 8-3 record. Again, the Vikings had to be considered an underdog.

“We actually felt even more confident facing Emerson,” Vivino said. “Emerson was the big rival when I was coaching at Park Ridge. I knew exactly how they were going to play against us. We were as prepared as a team could be. We really thought we could win.”

The Vikings did exactly that, gaining a 2-1 victory in overtime via a golden goal.

In the first minute of overtime, Antunes took a corner kick that went directly to freshman Laurynn Teixeira, who knocked it home for the game-winner.

“It was an emotional game,” Vivino said. “They rose to the occasion. They really stuck with it. It was a nice set play and we were able to score.”

As the Vikings moved into the state sectional semifinals, Vivino knew the opponent well. It was his former team from Park Ridge.

So last Friday, the Vikings, the highest seed left standing among North Jersey teams alive in the state playoffs, traveled to face the second-seeded undefeated Owls of Park Ridge, the winners of their division in the NJIC.

“It was a little bit weird facing them,” Vivino said. “I knew how good they are. They deserved to be that highly ranked. I know those girls well.”

The Owls dominated the Vikings, 3-0, ending North Arlington’s miraculous run in the state playoffs.

“I think they know how proud we are of them,” Vivino said. “Not just because we were a lower seed, but we were still playing in the middle of November. It was a lot of work, but I think they saw how rewarding it all was. It’s nice to see these things happen. It’s going to be tough to replace the seniors we’re losing, but we have a bunch of nice young players. I look forward to see what we have coming up.”

Senior Ashley Chiang was the Vikings’ goalkeeper.

“She did really well in goal,” Vivino said. “She was a key part to our success. She was one of the first to come aboard and buy into what we wanted to do. She asked what she could do to help. She was a big help with her leadership to rely upon.”

Senior Hailey Rolon was the captain and center back, anchoring the defense.

“She was an absolute worker,” Vivino said. “She was coming back from a pretty serious knee injury and she came back 100 percent. She played almost every minute. I relied on her heavily. I didn’t need to give her a lot of information. She brought the defense together.”

The other center back was freshman Sophia Veloso.

“From Day Two, I knew she could handle it,” Vivino said. “She’s that good of a player. She’s so composed and calm. She rarely makes a mistake. She’s so mature. She can play any position on the field.”

The other defenders were sophomores Kelly Pereirra and Nicole Garcia and freshman Ashley Miranda.

“The amazing thing was that the defense was something we felt we needed to work on,” Vivino said. “It turned out that we let them go on their own and let the attack work against them.”

Senior Melanie Jurado was one of the team’s center midfielder, but she held bigger role.

“She was the leader on the team,” Vivino said. “She bought into the process right away. She had that personality that you need with a young team. She helped us turn the corner on the positive side.”

Sophomore Brenna Sullivan was another center midfielder. Sullivan had two goals and tied for the team lead in assists with nine.

“She’s our playmaker who started the attack,” Vivino said. “She created a lot of opportunities.”

Teixeira was another center midfielder. She had the game-winner against Emerson Borough to her freshman resume.

“She’s one of the most technical players I’ve ever coached,” Vivino said. “She’s smooth on the ball. She’s developing confidence. She’s a gigantic weapon for us moving forward.”

Senior Jordyn Nelson ended her brilliant career as the team’s top goal scorer with 17.

“I wish I had another year with her,” Vivino said. “She worked non-stop from the start. She set the tone for everyone else. She’s not the most vocal kid, but she leads by example. Right from the get-go, she gathered everyone together.”

Antunes, a sophomore, added 12 goals and eight assists.

“I watched her play and right away I knew how good she was,” Vivino said. “She has such creativity with the ball. The options she has are endless. I knew she would be fun to coach.”

Freshman Daliana Rojas is another midfielder.

“She does a little bit of everything,” Vivino said. “She’s a goalie with her club team. She never told me that. I can use her in different positions and maybe next year, she could be in goal.”

Freshman Cruz was the team’s lone forward. She had nine goals, including the three against Saddle Brook, and tied for the team high with nine assists.

“She’s been tremendous,” Vivino said. “We waited for her to develop some confidence. She knows how to finish. She also passes when she needs to.”

Junior midfielder Sofia Barros was the team’s top reserve.

“She brought a lot of energy,” Vivino said. “She helped us out in key moments.”

Needless to say, with a young roster and a promising finish with a berth in the state sectional semifinals, Vivino can’t wait for next season.

“The sooner we get together, the better,” Vivino said. “I know the girls are excited about all the good things that can come in the future. I look forward to the future.”
So does everyone else in North Arlington.




The North Arlington girls’ soccer team enjoyed a great run, advancing as the No. 11 seed all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I sectional semifinals. The Vikings’ defensive unit included, front row, Elizabeth Ross, Ashley Miranda, Alyssa Cerchio, Megan Carneiro and Lauren Velazquez. Back row, from left, are Amanda Bayas, Nicole Garcia, Sophia Veloso, Ashleigh Chiang, Sofia Barros, Hailey Rolon and Ashley Martinez. 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.”