Despite pandemic, Ridgers girls soccer still kicking

Photo Courtesy of Oscar Viteri
The 2019 Glen Ridge girls soccer team had a stellar season and this year’s team is looking to repeat that performance, despite a condensed season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge High School girls soccer team won a state sectional title every year from 2012 to 2019, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to stop them from going for a ninth. Now in their second week of full practices, the Ridgers are gearing up for an abbreviated season that will begin Oct. 3 with a home game against Newark Academy.

“We did phase one, which was fitness and skill work in small groups, and that worked out well,” head coach Oscar Viteri said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on Sept. 18. “I’m just grateful that we’re out there. The most important thing is that they stay healthy out of school.”

Viteri said his returning core players have looked good through the first practices of the year. A shortened season means there might not be more playoffs past the sectional championship, so a state group championship isn’t a guarantee. But sectionals are still on the horizon, and the Ridgers’ goal is to get there.

“We’re in the top division because we’ve done well,” Viteri said. “That prepares you. Our goal is to get to that sectional final and hope for the best.”

Livingston, West Orange and Montclair are the toughest teams on the schedule, according to Viteri, and the Ridgers are also slated to play Millburn, Mount St. Dominic, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, West Essex, Bloomfield, Belleville and Newark East Side. A few of those opponents are similar in size to Glen Ridge, but others are much bigger.

“We always look forward to our conference games,” Viteri said. “Playing against them can be tough, but we compete with the bigger schools. This being a different season, we’ll see what happens. Championships are great, but we’d like to just make that push. We should be in the Group One mix.”

Keeping the Ridgers in the mix are many returning players, including senior Ania Prussak, who is committed to play soccer at Columbia University next year.

“She’s a very solid midfielder and a great leader,” Viteri said.

Senior forward Sydney Mansfield will also be returning to the team and see playing time.

“She’s a true goal scorer,” Viteri said. “If a game is tight, we look for her to score for us. She should have a good year.”

As of now, Viteri said the starting goalkeeper will be senior Olivia Carbonell. As a junior, she took over when Elettra Giantomerico was hurt, and will be maintaining the position. Giantomerico, a junior, will also be returning to the team.

“She did a great job stepping in,” Viteri said about Carbonell. “She has the edge right now because of what she did last year.”

Olivia Hoover is a junior midfielder who Viteri said scored 15 goals in 2019; he said other teams “will have their hands full keeping up with her.”

Other players who will see playing time as well. The rest of the Ridgers includes seniors Talia Reid, Eliza Berner, Isabelle Deubner, Johanna Doherty, Josie Lang and Maci Fazekas. The other juniors are Kaitlyn Degnan, Kayla Garse, Alison Shea, Caroline Weinstein, Defne Zeybek and Olivia Corradi.

Younger players made the varsity team, too. Sophomores Ava Kitronas, Alex Wecler, Megan Varga-Farnham and Ava Szwed will be on the field; freshmen Sierra Atkinson and Antonia Cusomano fill out the roster.

Viteri is in his 20th season coaching at GRHS, and his 300th win came in a game against Cedar Grove in 2018. Even in a shortened, pandemic-hampered season, he’s hoping the Ridgers can get a few more.

“The kids are great,” he said. “We’ve built a good program here with the coaching staff. I want to keep that tradition going.”

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