Nutley, NJ-- While a 7-10 record wasn't what it expected, the Nutley High girls' soccer team played well in 2019.
Head coach Mike DiPiano's squad lost seven of its 10 games by one goal, including its final game, at Somerville, in the NJSIAA Tournament, on Oct. 28. Nutley did finish the season strong, winning six of its last nine.
"Three of our losses were to top 10 teams in the state," said DiPiano. "We've never shied away from playing a tough schedule. The Super Essex Conference is a grind, and one that we embrace."
Losing a number of close games was frustrating.
"For sure," said DiPiano. "We couldn't score that big goal, in a lot of those games. We had opportunities. The silver lining was that we were right there. Our record was not indicative of the skill the team possessed."
Among the seniors who will be hard to replace in 2020 was team captain Samantha Gabriele.
"It will be extremely hard to make up or the loss of Samantha," said DiPiano. "She was a very special player for us. Sam started every (varsity) game since her freshman year. When she had the ball in her possession, she did some magical things over the last four years."
Gabriele was a First-Team, All-Super Essex Conference player in 2019.
Senior captain Kristina Lopomo will also be a key loss for the Raiders.
"Kristina did it all for us this year," said DiPIano. "She defended, ran up top and scored goals. Kristina will be missed."
Lopomo was named Honorable Mention, All-SEC.
Maria Marucci, a senior, was credited by DiPiano for a solid all-around season.
"Maria contributed to this team in many ways," the coach said.
DiPiano, who won his 100th game as the team's head coach this season and 500th overall, in his high school coaching career, spanning soccer, wrestling and baseball, is optimistic about the 2020 season.
"We have a strong core coming back," DiPiano said. "But we have things we need to work on, in the off-season, if we want to improve on this season's outcome. I don't doubt that we will be stronger and improved next year, but the returners need to be fit and stronger when the season rolls around."
Among the returning players, Mackenzie Albert was named second team, All-SEC while the conference awarded Honorable Mention accolades to Catalena Robson.