WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - At a time when the coaches of many fall sports programs are kicking back and relaxing for a few weeks, catching their breath after a long season, Wood-Ridge girls soccer coach Jerry Cala sounds ready to go.
As he continues to grow the Wood-Ridge program, he also took time to look back at what the team accomplished this season.
"This season for the first time in our program's seven year history, we played a full JV schedule which consisted of 11 games,“ Cala stated. “This is remarkable and will help with the overall growth of the program. A few years ago, after breaking away from Hasbrouck Heights, there were a lot of people that doubted we would survive as a varsity program. Nobody ever believed that we would be able to field a JV team.
“This was one of my goals when I was hired three years ago,” Cala continued. “I am thrilled that we were able to do this. It is so important for our younger girls that play in the Wood-Ridge recreation and travel programs to see that Wood-Ridge High School has both a Varsity and JV team. This is so important for player development and it puts more girls on the field."
Evidence in that player development can be shown in varying ways. One is post-season honors.
"We are very honored to have five players receive All League awards,” Cala stated. “ It is always nice to see your players get recognized by the other coaches in your division. These five individuals did a great job for us this season. They each played a diverse and unique role in helping us move forward as a program. Each one is a great example of what a student-athlete should embody. We are extremely proud and excited for each and every one of them. This is a great day for the WRHS girls soccer program."
"Angela Picheo (First team goalkeeper) did a great job for us this season,” Cala said. “Unfortunately, her career as a high school soccer player has come to an end. She was a four-year varsity starter, one of our captains for two years, and is the all time saves leader in program history. Over the last few seasons, Angela has established herself as one of the best goalkeepers in the NJIC."
While Picheo leaves, and hands the goalkeeper duties off to her sister Ava, four of the other selections remain for the 2020 season.
"Emily Gardella (First Team) was our leading goal scorer this season with 12 goals," Cala stated. “Throughout her career, Emily has proven to be such a versatile player. This season, she saw time as a sweeper as well as being our CAM (Central Attacking Midfielder). She did a tremendous job in both spots. Unfortunately, Emily's season ended prematurely with an ACL injury. We are excited to have Emily for another year. She will be back and better than ever."
"Stephanie Turi (Second Team) finished the season with 11 goals,” Cala stated. “Steph is the heart and soul of our program. She is one of our better attacking players and is very technical in one-on-one situations. Steph has really developed into a very good high school soccer player. Her attitude and work ethic are second to none. We are thrilled that we have Steph back next season."
"Sam Eckert has developed into one of the better defenders in the NJIC,” Cala stated. “Sam has a very good understanding of the game which leads to her making very sound decisions, with and without the ball. Often times this season, Sam was paired with two ninth graders and played a huge role in getting them acclimated to varsity soccer. Sam was a great mentor to these girls and led by example. We are excited to have Sam back next season."
"Natalie Cala finished the season with seven goals,” coach Cala stated. “She has become one of our better attacking players. Natalie reads the game very well and is very good in one-on-one situations. She has become very clinical with crossing the ball. The technical aspect of Natalie's game has grown as she has become very good with using both feet. We are excited to have Natalie back next season."
Cala has been focused on building a program that will succeed long-term. Part of that is to challenge the players with different situations during the year.
"As for our varsity program, we adopted a mentality that we will play anyone, anytime, and anyplace,” Cala stated. “This started during the preseason when we scrimmaged Bayonne, Hackensack, and state champions, Glen Ridge. These are three historically very solid programs. As for the regular season, we played several Big North schools, Dumont, Ridgefield Park, Cliffside Park, and Dwight Morrow. We finished 4-1 in these matches. We also faced Elmwood Park, a Group 2 school, and defeated them on the road 2-0, earning some valuable power points.
“Our goal this season was to move up in the table in our division. This did not happen. However, for many seasons, we were viewed as an easy win for our divisional opponents. We definitely changed that perception this season. We were competitive in just about all our divisional matches. This is evident in the fact that we had five matches decided by one or two goals, and two of those matches went into golden goal (overtime). So, yes record wise we came up short and that is something that falls on me. We did meet our goal of qualifying for the NJSIAA playoffs which we are most proud of. In the end, I am happy with how hard we played and our display of a never say die attitude. This is a credit to the high character that is on our roster."
"For the first time in my tenure, we suffered two season ending injuries to two junior starters, Kim Burniston and Emily Gardella,” Cala stated. “Both injuries were full ACL tears within one week apart. Kim and Emily are chomping at the bit to get back on the field. They are prepared and ready to put the work in to make a full recovery. They have our love and support."
"We are graduating our three two-year captains - Angela Picheo, Shaye Whaley, and Kaylyn Coppola. They each contributed in different ways. They were all four-year varsity players, and we will miss them dearly," Cala stated.
"Next season, we have juniors Gardella, Eckert, Turi, Burniston, and Cala returning, all have significant varsity experience. They will be joined by sophomores Victoria Drotos, Miranda Avila, Ava Picheo, Emily Cedano and Vivian Dang. Each of our sophomores has seen significant varsity time over the last two years. In addition, we have a very good freshman group led by Lia Wollerman. Lia tied a program record this season for most starts by a freshman. Freshman Sophie Basich, six varsity starts, Jaylin Schultz, four varsity starts, and Mairead Helly, two varsity starts will be returning as well. The remaining ninth graders - Sabrina Basich, Dakota Bentley, Shannon Lee-Gomez, and Gabriela Vaszquez all saw extensive time on JV. Juniors Lezbeth Ordonez, Melissa Kahramann, Julia Chankowski, Melany Ramirez, sophomores Gisela Castro, Angie Aguliar, and Daniella Arias saw extensive JV time as well. This experience will help prepare them for varsity next season.
Cala is already looking forward to the 2020 season.
"We have already adopted a slogan for next season from LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron - "We're coming, and we ain't backing down."
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