VERONA, NJ - After an injury negatively impacted her junior year, Rebecca Siclari started her senior year on the Verona girls soccer team stronger than ever.  Taking on the challenge of a new role, she has repeatedly come through for the Hillbillies making her the TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

“She has been fierce for our back line -- playing a different role than what she is accustomed to. Without her playing there this season we wouldn’t be as successful as we’ve been,” said head coach Kerrin Goosman.  “She’s becoming increasingly smarter on a tactical level -- the runs she makes, the space she covers, where she’s placing the ball and who she’s giving it to. It’s all part of the bigger picture and without her willingness to take on such a demanding, new role, we would see far more goals being scored against us.”

Siclari played holding mid as a sophomore, but a hamstring injury in her junior year slowed her down and negatively impacted her confidence.  This year Goosman moved her to center back, a position that Siclari is familiar with having played there during her youth soccer days.

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“My injury junior year really affected my confidence which was hard.  This year coach put me back on defense which is where I played when I was younger and where I feel most confident,” Siclari said.  I’m so grateful that Kerrin believed in me enough to make me a starting defender and I’m really happy with how the season has gone so far.”

Moving up a conference this year has been challenging for the Hillbillies, who currently stand at 6-5 for the season, but Siclari has confidence in her team and thinks they have a chance to go far.  

“I think our biggest strength is we never give up, and we just keep getting better and better.  We’re a young team, but we work hard, and we have a really strong bond as a whole,” Siclari said.  “Moving up a conference and playing tougher teams has definitely been challenging, but I think we’re playing really well.”

One example of the Hillbillies perseverance was a recent game against local soccer powerhouse West Essex.  Though the Hillbillies fell to the Knights 3-2, Siclari felt it was one of the best games of the season.

“Even though we lost, I think it was the best game we ever played.  We communicated so well, and we never gave up,” Siclari said.  

Siclari is hoping for a different outcome when the No. 11 Verona takes on No. 6 West Essex in the first round of the Essex County Tournament on Thursday.  

“We’ve never gone very far in the county tournament for as long as I’ve been playing at VHS, so we’re hoping to change that,” Siclari said.  

As she finishes out her soccer career at Verona, Siclari is happy to be recognized as Athlete of the Week, but notes that it truly is a team effort.

“I’ve worked really hard this season after the setback last year.  I’m feeling so much more confident and it feels really good to be recognized, but I just really love my team.  My teammates are the best part of soccer and the reason I stick with it,” Siclari explained. “This is really my favorite team of all my four years playing at VHS.  We’re all so close -- we really are a team.”

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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