The North Brunswick Township High School girls’ soccer players are really good friends off the field–and they are also really good at soccer.
That combination should work well for them in 2019, when they will try to improve on their 9-10 2018 campaign, in which they also lost in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
A slew of starters are back from that team, and they are a year older and better, both individually and together.
The veteran group includes forwards Akylah Hawkins and Xaria La’Mar, midfielder Kelly DeGaetano, defenders Imani Foat and Katerina Varelis and goalkeepers Christine Brandt and Ava Gianni.
It’s almost a full lineup of talent.
North Brunswick will open its 2019 season on Sept. 3 at home against Metuchen High School. Opening tap is set for 4 p.m.
“I would like to make it another round in states. That would be nice,” North Brunswick coach Danielle Porzio said.
“Two or three would be awesome though,” she continued while she laughed.
Porzio may have been laughing, but she was also serious. North Brunswick can really make a run this fall, if things come together.
It starts with DeGaetano, one of the most dynamic midfielders in New Jersey. As a freshman in 2018, DeGaetano scored 31 goals, more than some teams. The freshman standout also registered nine assists and made the All-Greater Middlesex Conference team.
“Her skill level is so high and she reads the game so well,” Porzio said. “She knows what to do with the ball when it comes to her feet.”
Hawkins and La’Mar were often the beneficiaries of DeGaetano’s playmaking last fall, combining for 13 goals, with Hawkins recording eight and La’Mar posting five. La’Mar is great at cutting off the ball to open passing lanes for her midfielders. Hawkins is a 5-9 attacker whose height makes her dangerous in the air, especially in the box.
Porzio wants both forwards to score even more in 2019, and in an older, more experienced and much improved lineup, they should get even more opportunities than they did a year ago.
“We are returning a core group,” Porzio said.
That statement is as true in the back as it is in the front. Foat and Varelis are a complementary center back tandem, with Foat running people down to mark them and Varelis attacking the ball to pop it loose.
Gianni and Brandt split time in net last fall, and each keeper made more than 100 saves. Both showed an ability to keep the Raiders in games when they struggled to control the ball.
“Ava and Christine are both great,” Porzio said.
These players span multiple classes. DeGaetano, Hawkins, Varelis and Gianni are all sophomores. La’Mar and Brandt are seniors. And Foat is a junior.
But they have all crossed paths over the years in North Brunswick Township soccer leagues and at Linwood Middle School, and they know each other well at this point. All the different classes are friends with each other now, too.
Porzio is encouraged by that more than anything else.
“They are really close off the field,” Porzio said. “That helps a lot.”