Nutley HS softball team has strong bond

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Photos by Steve Ellmore. Nutley vs. Columbia, April 17

NUTLEY, NJ – The Nutley High School varsity softball team this season has demonstrated strong camaraderie, much to head coach Luann Zullo’s delight.

“This team likes each other,” said Zullo, following her team’s 13-3 win over Union City on Saturday morning, April 21, at Yanticaw Park. “They get along. They enjoy the game. They enjoy being around each other. They are really a nice group of girls and a lot of fun to be around, and they support one another. It’s not about individuals; it’s about the team. They are genuinely excited for one another. That, I think, is the most important thing with this group.”

The Raiders, who had a 7-6 record through April 26, are determined to produce more good results on the field.

This year’s team is young, but talented, with just two seniors on the roster –  Sydney Kunz, who is the starting center fielder, and Jillian Stack.

Courtney Wilde, a junior, entered this season with valuable experience as the team’s starting pitcher.

Melanie Conca, a junior shortstop, also has provided exceptional leadership.

Lorianne O’Connor, a freshman, has shown much promise at second base, while sophomore third baseman Brianna Cruz brings experience and is coming along nicely.

Alexa Hergenhan, a sophomore who was the Designated Player as a freshman last year, has been working hard in her new role as catcher.

Other players on the roster are juniors Jillian Garner, Rebecca Granata, and Gianna Joyce; sophomores Jackie Caruso, Isabella Fogle, another pitcher; and Cecelia Mielnicki; and freshman Julia Ciccone.

The Raiders have regrouped nicely from a slow start to the season. Following a 2-4 start, Nutley won three straight games against Kearny, Livingston, and Union City. The win streak ended with losses to West Essex, 6-2, April 21, in an afternoon home game, and Verona, 1-0, April 23. The Raiders then won two straight as they beat Memorial of West New York, 14-4, April 23, at home and got their revenge on West Essex, 7-2, April 26 on the road.

Zullo, now in her 20th season at the NHS helm, has been impressed by her team’s work ethic.

“They work hard,” said Zullo. “We’re learning every day and getting better every day. We do things in practice and sometimes with some groups, those things don’t always translate to the field. But with this group, they’re making adjustments and making some plays and making some big plays.”

The key for the Raiders is continuing to improve on a daily basis, said Zullo.

“Our main goal is to get better every single day,” Zullo said. “If we can be better today than we were yesterday, that’s the most important thing for us.”

Nutley received the No. 8 seed in the 29-team field of the Essex County Tournament and will begin play in the first round on May 5 at home against either No. 25 Christ the King Prep, No. 24 Science Park or No. 9 Livingston. The quarterfinals are May 12. The semifinals are May 18 and the final is May 19, both at Ivy Hill Park-Seton Hall University.