BY MATTHEW MANGAM
The Girls’ varsity soccer team defied outsiders’ expectations by reaching the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Semifinals, but narrowly lost 1-0 to East Brunswick. “It is always tough to lose against a rival such as East Brunswick, but it was a heroic effort by the girls, and they left it all out on the field,” said Kimberly Hopping, head coach.
The team has had a positive season, with a 10-7-1 record. The Knights have earned many big wins thus far, including two thumping victories over South Brunswick, in which junior Emily Walz netted hattricks in both games. Walz leads the team this season with 12 goals and four assists.
“This season we have had many players injured on and off,” said Hopping. “However, we have dealt with the adversity well and have risen to the challenge. All players on the team stepped up to play big as needed. The team consistently works hard day in and day out to achieve our goals and exceed all expectations.”
Hopping, who is in her first year of coaching, replaced Robert Lozzi as head coach after his retirement from coaching for 28 years. Hopping said one of the team’s strengths this season is having the ability to work as a team.
“I think the biggest reason we have been successful this season is because of how close we have gotten because of the team bonding we have done,” said Ava Morales, senior and one of the captains of the team. “Chemistry is a huge factor when it comes to playing on the field, also allowing us to build confidence and trust each other.”
Naomi DeNovellis, senior and one of the captains of the team, said she feels the team has improved as the season has progressed. “Our chemistry and passing has improved immensely since our first game,” she said. “Our hard work in practices, positive communication on the field, and our encouraging bench have played huge factors in our team being successful. We have been on the unlucky side more times than we would have liked this season, but I am extremely proud of how our team has managed to persevere. I love this team and I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”
The Knights will lose seven seniors due to graduation at the conclusion of the season, including DeNovellis, Ciera Pellicciotta, Nicolette Armetta, Morales, Lilliana Sousa, Samantha Correia, and Faith Callan.
The team also features many exceptional underclassmen. Sophomore Isabella Ludovico is the team’s main goalkeeper, holding seven shutouts and earning the NJ.com goalkeeper of the week honors for the Greater Middlesex Conference. Also, NJ.com named three freshmen, Lilly Zanfini, Alyssa Penn, and Morgan Nelson, as members of the top 100 freshmen in New Jersey.
The season is not over yet for the Knights, as they still have a chance to win the NJSIAA Tournament which starts Nov. 2. According to Hopping, the team’s goals this season include winning the Group IV State Championship.
Photos by Gabriella Master