Throughout her soccer career, Brooke Yero has excelled as the focal point of everything Nutley does on both sides of the ball with her ability to facilitate the offense, distribute the ball to her teammates and defend from her center-midfield spot.
“My whole entire soccer career I’ve played center midfield and I’ve distributed the ball, I get a lot of assists and I just love passing the ball, using skills and moving it around the field,” said Yero. “My job has always been getting the ball to the forwards so they can score.”
But as a young Maroon Raiders squad struggled to generate offense, it became clear that the time had come for the star facilitator to be more active in the attack.
“We’ve always asked her to go forward and score more. She defends as much as she goes forward,” Nutley head coach Mike DiPiano said. “I think this week she realized she’s gotta go to the goal.
“She’s always been more of a playmaker and defensive center-mid. I think the bulb finally went right on.”
With Nutley needing to have a big week in order to lock up a spot in the state tournament, Yero responded with the biggest offensive stretch of her high school career.
The junior had a goal and two assists last Tuesday in a shutout over Irvington. Two days later, Yero erupted for three goals and three assists in a wild 8-4 win at Belleville. On Senior Night, Saturday, with the Raiders missing three starters due to injury, Yero scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win against Harrison.
Five goals, five assists, three crucial wins for Nutley and for Yero, a selection as The Observer Athlete of the Week.
“One of our issues (we had as a team) was that we couldn’t score,” Yero said, who also had two goals in an Essex County Tournament win against Newark Tech on Oct. 10. “I started realizing that as a central midfielder I just needed to take my chance, take more opportunities and press higher up the field.”
“Brooke has been a big reason for our success,” said DiPiano. “She keeps the team together, she’s the maestro on the field. It’s not a coincidence that during this winning streak, she’s gotten hot.”
After the 3-0 week, Nutley is now projected to be the No. 12 seed in the 16-team field for the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 sectional tournament.
The Raiders conclude the regular season with a game against Secaucus on Monday before the state tournament begins on Thursday.
“Coach DiPaino says that there’s nothing more dangerous than a team that’s starting to get more wins at the end of the season,” Yero said. “The team is starting to come together, we’re working well together. A lot of the younger players have been stepping up. It’s really starting to look great and I think we’re in a great position for states.”
With as many as seven underclassmen starting on a game by game basis, Nutley knew there would be growing pains this fall, especially early on with a schedule that featured matchups with multiple state-ranked foes in Essex County. For Yero, one of the team captains, it meant being a team leader both on and off the field.
And for all that Yero brings on the field with her talent, DiPiano saved his biggest praise for what he does as a leader and role model for those freshmen and sophomores.
“Having these six, seven freshmen and sophomores start and get to copy her is only going to help us next year. I think that’s the biggest compliment I can give her. Those girls want to be Brooke Yero and if they are, we’re going to be a good team for the next several years.
“If these freshmen and sophomores grow up to be Brooke Yero, they’ll be great young women.”
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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.)