Gregg T. Carbone
NJS.com Executive Editor
|Junior Erin Wood will be one of Bayonne's main scoring threats this season.|
BAYONNE - Last season was a memorable one for Bayonne's girls soccer team, unfortunately for the Bees, it was one they would much rather forget.
After getting off to a 5-2 start Bayonne's 12-year coach, Rich Hover, reported that he had an ineligible player on the team. The player, it turned out, was 19-years old, which is a violation of NJSIAA rules.
As a result of the infraction, Bayonne was forced to forfeit all but one of its victories. The Bees would finish what turned out to be a very turbulent year with just that one win and in search of a new coach after Hover, who had announced his retirement plans before the controversy, left the team following the season.
But with the new season comes new hope and guarded optimism that Bayonne will be able to compete in a very tough HCIAA.
"I'm pretty excited about it," said first year coach Dennis Degnan, who skippered Bayonne's boys soccer team for a season before moving over to the girls this year. "I think we're going to surprise some people this year."
From a skill level standpoint, however, Degnan does have some holes to fill.
The Bees lost several key players to graduation last year including Jessica Klask, Leigh Ann Basile, Jackie Petty and Kelly Oates. Petty is playing at NJCU this year and Oates is going to play at Rider.
Senior Lauren Zientek, one of the team's top returning players, suffered a broken leg in a summer league game and will be lost for the season.
"(Zientek) was a key player as a junior," said Degnan. "We're definitely going to miss her.
"When you're looking around the HCIAA at teams like Holy Family and St. Dominic's, any skilled player we lose is going to drop us down a notch and Lauren was a skilled player."
Bayonne will bring back just two seniors this year in Karen Smith and Nichole Rogan. Rogan was the team's top goalie last year but will move to fulltime sweeper this season. Degnan feels that Rogan's presence on the field will make a greater impact then relegating her to the goal crease.
"It's going to be a leadership role," Degnan said. "She's got to run with it. She's athletic, she's fast and she has nice size. She's skilled. Having an intimidating girl playing sweeper, on the field, is better than an intimidating girl playing goalie.
have a feeling. I like this, it's one coaching move I'm going to make. We'll
see how it plays out."
|Nichole Rogan (right) will play full time in the field this season after spending most of last year as Bayonne's goaltender.|
Rogan, though she would still like to play goalie, has bought into Degnan's hunch and is excited about playing in the field. "I'd love to be goalie but it's been good," she said. "I played both in the field and goalie last year so I'm somewhat used to it."
Smith will play forward and, according to Degnan, has the best foot on the team.
"She can kick it the furthest and has a nose for the goal," Degnan said. "Look for her to take corner kicks and restarts."
Degnan is expecting big things out of a trio of juniors that contributed heavily last year before the season was cast into ruin.
Ashley Bozewski, who was the team's leading scorer when she left the team midseason, returns and will be playing midfield. Kelly Daly and Erin Wood are both going to play forward. Together the three, along with Smith, will be Bayonne's biggest offensive weapons.
"I think we're going to score some goals," Degnan said.
On defense, juniors Lindsay Sipes and Keri Fallon are both being counted on heavily to use their athleticism to help keep the opposition from getting too many good looks at the goal.
Sipes is playing high school soccer for the first time this year after being brought over from the softball team by Degnan. Fallon, who was on the team last year, has played hockey each of the past two seasons and brings the same toughness blended with finesse that she has shown on the ice in that time. She will likely play stopper.
"We're going to surprise a lot of people," said Fallon. "We're junior and sophomore dominated but I think we look pretty good. The younger players have shown a lot so far."
The goalie position will be shared by juniors Cassandra Zieniuk and Caitlin Hoffman. Zieniuk did see significant action last year, however, both have looked solid in practice thus far.
"We're going to split it right now with these two," Degnan said. "We have some scrimmages coming up so we'll see what happens. But I think we're going to do what Prep (soccer) did last year with Brett Prime and Jonathan Schmidt and have them both play."
Keeping with the young, athletic theme of this year's team, Degnan has brought up a pair of freshman to the varsity level. Jillian Ostaszewski and Audrey Jacobson have both shown great potential in practice so far and while both are still quite raw, Degnan feels they will make an impact this year.
"It's going to be a baptism by fire," he said. "We have to see if they hang with the big girls. Skill wise, they're lacking, but they're athletes."
Both Holy Family and St. Dominic Academy return virtually their entire teams from last year and both will likely be the top two teams in the league. The Blue Devils won their second straight HCIAA championship last year when they defeated Holy Family 3-0.
"We could go far," said Rogan. "I have confidence. We're playing tough and we're playing like a real team should play. We are ready to put last season behind us."
"We're here and it's a fresh start," added Degnan. "We're going to do our best."
Bayonne will open with North Bergen at home on September 12.
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