NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Coming off a tough season where the squad was 7-8-2, the West Essex girls soccer team continues to set high standards for the upcoming 2019 season.

“The team is looking forward to starting the season and their goal is to win the Conference,” said West Essex head coach Robert Faggiani, who added that the team is already buying into his system with the season rapidly approaching. “From day one, we’ve told the girls we have very high expectations for them, and they are working very hard. Whether it’s fitness or ball work or motivating each other, they’re definitely setting the bar high for themselves as well.”

Defensively is where the Knights will have their most experience this fall. Captain Carly Feldman and Hayley Seck will lead the way for the team as they look to improve on a unit that allowed for only one goal per game.

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“They’re both seniors and are big, strong, fast players,” said Faggiani. “They help us tremendously and shut down the opposing teams pretty easily.”

The duo of seniors will be protecting the net, which will be tended by starter Georgia Tarullo. The junior goalie was solid last year, collecting a pair of shutout victories to her name.

“[Tarullo] is so confident in net and a vocal player on the field, so she helps us out defensively as well as stopping shots,” said Faggiani.

Midfield will be led this year by Captain Alexa Devlin, who collected a handful of assists in 2018 and is touted for her selfless ability on the field. Devlin is joined by a host of players who will be looking to control the transition offense for the Lady Knights.

“[Devlin] is a great passer of the ball,” said Faggiani. “She’s very confident when she has the ball at her feet.”

Offensively, the Lady Knights will return their key scorer in Brooke Schatz, another team captain. Schatz led the squad last year with eight goals and three assists. She remains a lethal scorer for West Essex with 27 career goals to her name.

“[Schatz]’s good in the air, she’s good at dribbling, she’s good in the box, she’s super competitive and holds herself at a high standard which is great to have on the team,” said Faggiani.

A week prior to the start of the school year, Faggiani and his staff are currently working to identify key strengths and weaknesses for each of the players.

“It’s been a smooth transition since I already knew some of the players [as a former assistant coach],” said Faggiani. “This is just one step up but they are buying into the system.”

West Essex will open the season in a tough matchup against rival James Caldwell on Sept. 4.

“It doesn’t have to be said for the kids—it’s their local rivalry and they are very excited,” said Faggiani. “To play a team that’s a crosstown rivalry for your first game is very exciting and fun to see, and hopefully we can come out on top.”