For the past two seasons Elise Ferschweiler has been a valuable contributor on the back line of Lyndhurst’s defense.
While still a standout in the back, Ferschweiler has now become a pivotal part of the Golden Bears’ offense, particularly on restarts.
With Lyndhurst’s offense in desperate need of a spark last Monday against North Arlington, Ferschweiler’s penalty kick goal in the 42nd minute broke a scoreless tie and propelled the Golden Bears to a 3-1 win over its local rival. Two days later at Weehawken, Ferschweiler scored three goals, all on free kicks, in a 6-0 victory.
The two victories have Lyndhurst 3-3 for the season and currently sitting in second place in the NJIC Liberty Division standings at 3-1.
Ferschweiler’s offensive outburst makes her The Observer Athlete of the Week for this week. Prior to the game against North Arlington, Ferschweiler had just one career varsity goal.
“I definitely knew that I had the ability to do it and everybody tells me to shoot more and take shots from far out, but I never really applied it,” said Ferschweiler. “I think this year will definitely be the year to start doing that.”
“We need her to score on set pieces because we have been sputtering offensively trying to find our rhythm,” head coach Kimberly Hykey said. “She’s been a spark for us and we’re hoping to build off of that.”
The graduation of star striker Lexi Augustyniak as well Kayla Carrino and Madison Weaver created a massive offensive void as the trio combined to score 36 of Lyndhurst’s 49 goals last year. It also left a need for someone to take free kicks in the attacking third of the field.
Prior to this season, Ferschweiler’s work on restarts was limited to goal kicks or free kicks from the defensive third of the field.
To help prepare Ferschweiler for her new role, Hykey had her practice free kicks on the net whenever there was a few minutes of deadtime during summer practices in order to get more comfortable with those situations.
The transition wasn’t an easy one at first with both Hykey and Ferschweiler admitting that many of those early kicks sailed over the net.
“A lot of the time, I have the tendency to hit the ball over the goal,” said Ferschweiler. “So I really just try and focus on keeping my body over the ball and hitting it as hard as I can to get the best chance of getting it in the goal.”
“It’s not a surprise in the sense that we’ve known she’s had this ability, it was about getting her to believe in her own ability,” Hykey said. “In prior years she hasn’t had to do as much offensively. We had other people who took over those roles. But we knew it was there.”
Taking free kicks wasn’t the only change planned for Ferschweiler’s senior season in order to boost Lyndhurst’s attack. Initially, she was expected to play primarily at midfielder to take better advantage of her speed. However, injuries combined with Ferschweiler’s comfort on the back line, led to her returning to defense, stabilizing a group that starts two freshmen – Ava Shapiro and Emma Marnik.
“Once we put Elise back there, everybody just took a deep breath and relaxed,” Hykey said. “I think she solidifies it, brings composure and confidence (on the back line) and makes everybody else better around her. You’re a leader, you want to make those around you better and that’s what Elise is doing for us.”
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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.)