After winning a combined 30 games over the past two seasons, expectations are understandably high for the North Arlington girls soccer team and its veteran senior core.
But as the Vikings look to build upon that recent success, there is an understanding that it will need to be done in a slightly different way, following the graduation of star midfielders Arancha Antunes (now playing at Manhattan) and Brenna Sullivan.
“I’ve had people ask me, are we going to be better? Are we going to be worse? I say we’re going to be different,” said North Arlington head coach Mike Vivino. “We’re going to have a different look, we’re going to have a different approach. We’re going to be a little more balanced with our attack.
“So far the girls have done pretty well.It’s good to have those players we relied on, but at the same time you can’t rely on them forever. We need other players to step up.”
In particular, North Arlington will have to win more with its defense than in the past. Fortunately for the Vikings, they have a stellar tandem to anchor their defense in goalie Daliana Rojas and center back Sophia Veloso.
Rojas, a three-year starter, posted six shutouts in net a season ago, while Veloso is a four-year starter on the defense
“Between Dali and Sophia Veloso, our center back, they’ve been there for three going on four years now. To have that level of confidence in each other is rare,” Vivino said. “We’re always barking about communication and that kind of stuff, but then we remember that they’ve been doing it for three years now so a lot of that stuff is intuitive and they don’t even have to say it. It sets a great example for everybody and sets a nice calming presence.”
At the other center back spot is sophomore Emily Carrera, a Kearny transfer with maturity beyond her years.
“She’s one of the smoothest, calmest players, you would think she’s a senior in college the way she’s so composed in all the situations we put her in,” Vivino said. “She just responds to it so well, she’s so smart, good with the ball at her feet.”
At the outside backs are Ashley Miranda, a senior captain and returning starter, and Abby Lopes, a junior who earned valuable minutes as last season progressed. Freshman Sara Albanese will also be counted upon to provide quality minutes as a reserve.
In the midfield, no one player can replace Antunes, who had 60 goals and 70 assists for her career. Sophomore Lyndsay Gilbert, who according to Vivino, “had a lot of big moments for us last year,” is poised for a big season at center midfield. Laurynn Tiexiera, a senior captain, is back after posting 19 goals and 11 assists a year ago, and will be counted on to distribute more in the attack. Freshman Mia Serodio is a talented player on the wing, who will also be asked to help pick up the slack offensively.
Sophomores Skyler Crudele and Sophia Poremba are at the other wing and junior Maddie Goncalves is a returning starter as a holding center-midfield. Junior Brielle Serodio will see time at the midfield and Miranda can also move up.
Leading the offense once again will be senior Lia Cruz. The forward, who had 28 goals with 12 assists last year and has 64 career goals, is a game-changer and can be the difference in tightly-contested contests.
“It always helps to know that all we need is one opportunity in a game and something good can happen. You don’t score 27 goals by accident and Lia’s had that ability,” said Vivino. “She’s dangerous on the counter attack and she’s got great speed.”
Senior Medalis Paez brings added depth up top for the Vikings.
North Arlington begins the season on Friday, Sept. 9 at Hasbrouck Heights with a home game against Union City the next morning.
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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 (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)