Lady Kards last team standing in NJSIAA tournament

Michael Sylvia described this season for his Kearny girls’ soccer team as one that could be broken up into three different chapters.

After a successful first chapter and a tumultuous second, the third chapter of this Kardinals year — the postseason — has thus far been one of triumph.

With six consecutive victories, including a 3-1 victory at Livingston in the North 1, Group 4 quarterfinals on Saturday, Kearny is the last Observer-area girls soccer team still alive in the state tournament.

Kearny, seeded fifth, plays top-seeded and undefeated Ridgewood, ranked No. 4 in the Top 20, in the semifinals on Tuesday, Nov. 1. It is the furthest the Kardinals have gone in the state tournament since 2016, but that doesn’t mean they are content quite yet.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. We’re not even close to finishing the writing of our story,” Sylvia said. “But we definitely acknowledge that this is now a round further than we went last year. That’s a big deal for us. It shows our growth as a program. That’s a point of pride.”

Down 1-0 at the half after allowing a penalty kick goal, Kearny responded with three consecutive goals to advance.

Emily Horvaht tied it with a goal off a feed from Paige Raefski. Then, with about 20 minutes left, Raefski put the Kardinal ahead for good when she received an Olivia Covell through ball and beat the keeper on a 1v1 for the go-ahead goal.

Now that we were tied, we weren’t going to let that game go to overtime,” said Raefski. “We were hungry, we wanted more goals and we were going to get them.”

Maci Covello added an insurance goal late, assisted by Araxiel Cardenas-Saenz. Gabriela Matias made eight saves and Aracely Vasquez had two.

This past Thursday, Kearny won its first round game over Fair Lawn by an emphatic 5-0 margin.

“We knew that all that matters is that we come into the postseason playing our best soccer and being as fit as we possibly can. We’re pretty confident that we are doing that right now,” Raefski said. “We’re playing our best soccer, we still have some injuries, but for the most part, our starting lineup is almost 100-percent intact. We’re looking forward to these games coming up.”

While Kearny experienced jubilation in its quarterfinal, Lyndhurst experienced heartbreak as it fell to West Essex in penalty kicks by a 3-2 margin after playing to a 1-1 tie in the North 2, Group 2 quarterfinals. The Golden Bears had won eight of its last nine games prior to Saturday, the last a 2-1 overtime victory over Voorhees on Kayla Carrino’s game-winning goal.

North Arlington’s NJIC National Division championship season came to a premature end on Thursday when the Vikings were upset by New Providence, 2-1, in the first round of the North 2, Group 1 tournament. Junior Lia Cruz scored the lone goal in defeat, her 28th of the season and 64th of her stellar career.

In North 2, Group 3, Nutley was defeated 6-0 by a Cranford team currently ranked No. 9 in the state by

The NJSIAA girls volleyball tournament also got underway last week.

Lyndhurst, the eighth seed in North 2, Group 2, won a three-set thriller over ninth-seeded Parsippany Hills, 25-11, 19-25, 25-21 on Friday. Yasemin Ugurlu posted seven kills and Asya Akar had three blocks, eight digs and five aces for the Golden Bears, who play top-seeded West Morris on Monday, Oct. 31, after publication in the quarterfinal.

Harrison, seeded seventh in Central, Group 1, swept 10th-seeded Roselle Park, 25-11, 25-8 in the first. Xamarys Liranzo (three kills, five digs, 13 assists, three aces) led the way for the Blue Tide who were set to play second-seeded Hoboken on Oct. 31.

In North 1, Group 4, 12th-seeded Bloomfield upset local rival and fifth-seeded Montclair, 25-17, 26-24 in the first round behind nine kills from Camille Schiralli on Saturday. The Bengals play fourth-seeded Ridgewood in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

North Arlington, the 10th seed in North 2, Group 1, was defeated by seventh-seeded Cedar Grove, 25-12, 25-18 in the first round on Friday. Nutley, seeded 13th in North 2, Group 3, was defeated 25-7, 25-17 by Cranford in the first round on Saturday.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)