A successful girls’ soccer team is only as good as the play of its midfielders and forwards.
There lies the reason why the Kearny High School girls’ soccer team won its incredible 13th straight Hudson County Tournament championship Thursday night at Red Bull Arena, defeating North Bergen, 4-0.
Paige Raefski had a goal and two assists. Emily Horvaht had a goal and an assist. So did Abby Crispin. All three are seniors and all three seem to know where each other is on the field at all times. It’s more than karma. The three have played together since they learned how to tie their cleats on their own.
The Kardinals (9-5-2) scored a goal in the first five minutes of the game and never looked back. Raefski made a great run on the right side and found Horvaht in front and Horvaht knocked it home for her ninth goal of the season.
“I think that goal got everyone going,” Raefski said.
“It set the tone for the rest of the game,” Horvaht said. “Once we got one, the nerves were gone.”
And the top-seeded Kardinals were still a little skittish about playing at Red Bull Arena, the grandest of soccer venues in the nation.
“We were a little nervous, because there were so many people here to watch us,” Raefski said. “It was a big field, a big stadium. It really meant a lot for us to be here.”
“Once we got the first goal, we had the confidence we could win,” Horvaht said.
In the 15th minute, Raefski scored her goal off a fine pass from Crispin. The two returned the favor for each other in the 30th minute.
The three top scorers for the Kardinals did the damage. Incredibly, Raefski and Crispin both have 10 goals and 10 assists for the season. Horvaht has nine goals. That’s called having a completely balanced attack and the three girls had a major hand in the county championship win.
“We have great chemistry together,” Horvaht said. “We’ve spent so much time together playing.”
“I know where she is when I start running,” Raefski said of Horvaht. “I think we all have confidence that we can put it in the back of the net.”
Kearny head coach Mike Sylvia liked the way his leaders performed on the grand stage.
“We came out and scored early,” Sylvia said. “We did what we were supposed to do. We executed the plan and I’m happy about that. Their chemistry is incredible. It was there already when they got to me. We’re only fine tuning what they’ve been doing all along. They have the freedom to open things up on their own and it has been a tremendous plus.”
Junior Gianna Charney closed out the scoring in the second half with her first varsity goal. Not a bad location to get the first one. Sure makes it very memorable. To score a goal at Red Bull Arena in a county championship victory, the one that gave your team an incredible 13th county crown in a row.
Aracely Vazquez played the first half and Gaby Matias finished up in goal for the clean sheet, although the Bruins didn’t come close to a shot on goal.
“Winning 13 county titles is just amazing,” Sylvia said. “But we will enjoy this for a bit and think of the next challenge.”
It means Fair Lawn in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Group IV state tournament, which was slated for Tuesday.
“I think we were happy to be here,” Sylvia said. “It was like a dream. I’m happy we won.”
“Playing here was a great experience,” Horvaht said. “But it doesn’t mean anything if we didn’t win.”
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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.”