NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – With several new players, a new coach and a new attitude, the New Brunswick High School girls soccer team has high hopes for the 2020 season.

The Zebras are off to a 2-2 start and showing signs they are much improved after finishing 3-15 last year.

“These girls know there’s a chance we can be really good this year,” said Allie Lubcher, who takes over as head coach after seven seasons as an assistant. “So they’re pushing to get better and learn every day.”

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The team is getting an unexpected boast from a player who is brand new to the sport.

Junior Nayeli Padilla Fuentes scored a goal in the season-opening 5-2 loss to Colonia, but then scored twice in a 6-1 win over Perth Amboy and added four goals and an assist in an 8-1 victory over Somerset Tech.

Those seven goals puts Fuentes among the league leaders in the state.

Lubcher said the Zebras have been a low-scoring team over the past several years, but Fuentes “just wants to score. We’ve never had someone who would fully go to the net and almost be selfish to the point where they want to score and that’s what you need.”

She has found instant chemistry with senior forward Kellanie Nembhard, who was forced to sit out the past two seasons because of ACL injuries to both knees. Nembhard, who Lubcher calls “an aggressive, physical player,” is among the state leaders with three assists.

Two seniors, midfielder Shellsea Vasquez and versatile fullback Jazzlyn Contreras, have provided leadership through a season that will be shorted because of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association rules in response to COVID-19.

Keeper Salma Ibrahim continues to improve. The junior and two-time All-Greaert Middlesex Conference White Division selection is now in her third year as the starter and is the vocal, on-field leader for the Zebras’ back line.

When you add it all up, Lubcher has been impressed with the work ethic and execution of her team, which plays Tuesday at Edison, Thursday at Sayreville and Saturday at Woodbridge.

“This is the most depth and balance we’ve ever had,” she said. “We now have bench players who can step on the field and make an impact right away.”