LYNDHURST, N.J.– The Lyndhurst High School girls soccer team walked off its home field deflated after falling short of the state sectional finals for the second year in a row.
This season, head coach Kimberly Hykey is armed with 19 players – 12 of them seniors – who are hellbent on capturing the program's first ever North 2, Group 2 crown.
"This is our last chance," said senior sweeper Kelsie Kearns, who is committed to Iona College. "We've won leagues the past two years but it's not enough. We need to win states."
"We all want this for our senior year" added senior midfielder Amanda Fulcher, who scored 24 goals and notched 18 assists last year. "We work so hard. Hard working and leaving it all on the field – that's how we're going to win states."
Last year's sectional title winner Whippany Park was relegated to Group 1, clearing a path for the Golden Bears.
"Despite losing Whippany Park, our section is still filled with quality teams," said Hykey, who gave birth to her first child in June. "But if the girls work hard enough, they can beat anybody."
Lyndhurst already sent waves through the county, defeating Indian Hills, 2-0, and taking Paramus, a strong Group 3 school, to penalty kicks after a scoreless 100 minutes.
"I think people really underestimate us because we're a small school," said Fulcher, a third team All-County selection.
After losing their opening game against rival New Milford, the Golden Bears strung together a 20-game unbeaten streak.
"I didn't realize it happened until people started talking about it," said Hykey, a 2004 LHS graduate. "It's really impressive. It's not as easy for a small school to do."
Part of the success was a strong back line anchored by Kearns and Claudia Engels and keeper Isabella "Izzy" Castagnetti as the last line of defense. The group recorded 13 shutouts.
There was also the emergence of forward Mia Luna, who scored 20 goals during her sophomore campaign.
"Mia is dangerous when she plays with confidence and with intensity," said Hykey, who is nine wins shy of 100 career victories. "It starts on the defensive side. When she's playing a high level of defense, it translates to more offensive chances."
Keep an eye on sophomore midfielder Giulia Pizzolla, whose 18 assists in 2015 was tops in the state for freshmen, and Gabrielle Carrion, a senior midfielder, whose strength and speed "will bolster our attack," Hykey said.
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