The Pope John Lions girls soccer team didn´t finish the way they wanted with a final record of 5-12-1. After a 3-game losing streak to start the season, the Lions won 3 of their next 4 games, all in the same week.
October would turn sour as their 2 final wins would come against the Phillipsburg Stateliners in the 1st round of the HWS (Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex) Tournament and again against the Stateliners a week later. The Lions wouldn´t be able to win another game as they end on a 4-game losing streak to conclude the 2022 season.
Right from the beginning, the Lions knew that their offense wouldn´t be the problem. With Junior forward Mackenzie Kaiser scoring 15 goals and 6 assists and Sophomore Jaidyn Falcone scoring 7 goals and 11 assists, the Lions didn´t have trouble scoring, averaging 2.2 goals per game.
The biggest problem was their ability to allow 2.8 goals per game. Freshman goalie Abigail Talmadge struggled to make saves at crucial times in games, but also made crucial saves during the Lions 3-game winstreak. Senior center backs? Lauren Cunico and Krista Dengler did the best they could to lock down any scoring chances.
Though the Lions had lost to the Roxbury Gaels 3-1 in their 1st meeting on September 8th, the Gaels came to Pope John on September 30th and fell 3-2 in OT on Senior forward Isabella Fiore´s game-winning goal. This concluded the 3-game winstreak as the next night, the Lions fell to the Blair Buccaneers 3-0.
After the 2nd win over the Stateliners, the Lions fell to the Morristown Colonials 1-0 beginning their final stretch of games which resulted in a tie and 4 more losses. The toughest loss to swallow was the Senior Day 4-2 loss to the Morris Hills Scarlet Knights. The Seniors were disappointed, but still enjoyed the day and the game which was their final home game.
With the season nearing a close in the Lions´ 1st round state tournament game against the Academy of the Holy Angels Angels, Fiore would add her name to the score sheet as one final salute to her team. Though the game was a 4-1 loss, and it ended the season, the Lions reminisced about their 2022 season, thinking mainly about the positive moments.
Lions Head Coach Federico Diaz was very proud of the girls and is excited about next season, even though he will have to wait 8 months until summer training begins again.
¨We have a young core which is very good,¨ said Coach Diaz. ¨It´s going to suck losing our Seniors since they are very crucial leaders to this team, but we have some great upperclassmen that will lead us in a positive direction. This Senior class will be very tough to replace; they were the spine of the team, but having that strong young core will make us stronger with the seed of potential that the Seniors have planted in this program.¨
Dengler and Cunico were sad to leave the program, but knew that Coach Diaz would bring the program to do great things with a team with a lot of potential.
¨Our record this season didn´t reflect the potential and talent of our team,¨ said Dengler. ¨Many games were extremely close, and we couldn´t pull out the win. Being part of this team has made the past 4 years unforgettable, and I have so much love for all of the girls. I am going to miss Pope John Girls Varsity Soccer, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.¨
¨We improved in a lot of aspects on the field this season,¨ said Cunico. ¨There are some things to be cleaned up which I know Coach Fed [Diaz] will be working with the girls on next year. Mac [Kaiser] will be a key role model for the girls next year. Her dedication to the program and love for the sport will carry the team to have a successful season. Our parents are amazing. They showed up to every game, always making noise and lifting our spirits, whether it was 70 and sunny or 40 and pouring rain.
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.