NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — After a hugely successful 2019 that saw the Lady Knights soccer team go 14-5 and produce two state playoff victories, West Essex returns a number of hungry players looking to continue to prove they belong.

“I know the girls are looking to prove a point…we’re ready to move up and stay and compete with all the best teams in our County,” said West Essex head coach Robert Faggiani.

This year, the West Essex group will move up into the American Division of the Super Essex Conference looking to compete with the likes of West Orange and Livingston among others.

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“We want to finish definitely in the top three of the conference, we know those are high expectations and the girls have even higher expectations, and they’re looking to prove a point,” said Faggiani.

In the midfield senior captains Emma Robiero and Isabella Vitella will lead the group. Last year the duo tag-teamed for nearly 20 percent of the team’s offensive output.

“They provide all that leadership in how that they perform on the field, they’re both fast, they understand the game, how to play it, and help generate our offense,” Faggiani said.

Junior Mia Saccone will join them to round out the group that has high expectations in the midfield. A host of underclassmen will also factor into the key spot of midfield for the Lady Knights.

Offensively, West Essex will return one of their biggest pieces in Captain Sam Balzano. Balzano led the squad in scoring last season accounting for 19 of the team’s 60 goals scored along with three assists on the year.

“[Balzano] is looking to hop right back into that [scoring mentality],” said Faggiani.

Alongside Balzano in the Lady Knights will bring back junior Lauren Geiger who is returning from an injury that lingered in 2019. Sophomores Alex Sek and Skye Grimes will round out the offensive attack for the Lady Knights.

 “Everyone looks really good so we’re really excited for this season,” said Faggiani.

Senior Georgia Tarullo and sophomore Ella Clausi are the goalies.

Junior Remi Goldstein, Abby Lonergan will be joined by Alexa Houmis to keep the defensive unit strong. All three saw significant action last year for West Essex even contributing offensively with four combined goals of their own.

 “They’ll be strong, they’ll protect [Clausi] and help her out for sure,” said Faggiani.

Currently, the squad is ramping back up its activities after an NJSIAA-mandated two-week ‘down’ period. The adjustment is awkward to say the least, but the West Essex Head Coach is proud of his team’s ability to adapt.

 “It is a crash course but it’s been going a coaching staff we’re really happy as the players are focused and ready to go,” said Faggiani.

West Essex will open its season on Oct. 3 at Millburn.