LYNDHURST — Iona women’s soccer coach Sarah Brady exudes plaudits when it comes to the addition of Lyndhurst’s Kelsie Kearns.
Kearns, the graduated Lyndhurst defender who was on the All-NJIC Liberty Division first team last season, has made quite an impression to Brady and the rest of the Gaels team in a short amount of time.
“Pound-for-pound Kelsie is the grittiest kid I’ve ever worked with,” said Brady, who leads an Iona University team in the NCAA Division I Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. “She is the David in the Goliath battle and as we know from the story … David comes out on top.”
Kearns was part of an impressive senior group last season that continued the Golden Bears’ dominance as one of the best small schools in Bergen County. Lyndhurst finished with a 16-4 record and a share of the NJIC Liberty title.
Three other Lady Bears join Kearns on the college level in Amanda Fulcher at Albright College (Reading, Pa.), Claudia Engels at Felician College (Rutherford) and Gabby Carrion, who is playing at Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania).
For Kearns there was not much decision making when it came to what college she was going to choose. Iona was interested in her early and she decided on the school in New Rochelle, N.Y.
“I wasn’t really serious about attending any other schools other than Iona because I committed my junior year,” said Kearns. “I looked at St. John’s for a little but that’s about it.”
Brady was a big reason that the Lyndhurst graduate chose Iona.
“One of the main reasons I picked Iona was because of the coach,” said Kearns. “She made me feel like it was the best fit for me and that I would be comfortable here and can learn a lot from both her and my teammates.”
And Brady has already liked what she has seen in Kearns in the early going of the preseason.
“We are delighted with Kelsie’s contribution to the team thus far in the preseason period,” said the Iona coach. “She has proven to her teammates that she is ready to play at the DI level and is committed to making a significant contribution to the team in her freshman year.”
As a senior she was one of the top defenders in the NJIC and was named to the all-division first team for the third straight year. Despite being in the back, Kearns collected six goals and eight assists last season.
Along with her new coach count her old coach, Lyndhurst’s Kim Hykey, as being a big fan of Kelsie.
“Kelsie was one of the top student-athletes to come through our program,” said Hykey. “She was a warrior and ultimate competitor, which I think will lend to her success on the Division I level. Iona is fortunate to have a dedicated student athlete like Kelsie in their program. I look forward to watching her succeed over the next four years.”
And despite the faster pace of the game that Kearns has seen in her first two weeks of college soccer, she said that the Lyndhurst system has prepared her well for the next step.
“It’s a lot different but also similar in some ways to Lyndhurst,” said Kearns. “The speed of play is a lot quicker. Everyone here is 100 percent committed and works to better both themselves and the team. We always did a lot of fitness with Coach Hykey so I’ve done many of the workouts we do here at Lyndhurst.”
In her four years at Lyndhurst, Kearns recalls a victory against Hasbrouck Heights, a neighborhood and NJIC rival, as her best moment for the Lady Bears when she was a freshman.
“Lyndhurst had not beaten them in over 10 years before that night,” Kearns said of the evening back in 2013. “The game went back and forth, but we came out with a 5-4 win. Every single one of us on that field gave it our all and played our hearts out. I still remember that game like it was yesterday. I will never forget being a part of such memorable game.”
And the toughest loss probably was her last game in the blue and gold when the Lady Bears were upset by Hanover Park, 2-1, in the state tournament last fall. And with the loss came the realization that her high school career was over on the pitch.
“It did not really hit me that I would never play on Lyndhurst again until we lost in the state section quarterfinals,” said Kearns. “We were projected to win and had high expectations for our team this past year. Unfortunately we did not get the outcome we had hoped for, but I would not have done anything different.”
Overall though, her favorite time came while practicing and playing games for Lyndhurst soccer.
“Playing soccer has to be my favorite memory at Lyndhurst,” said Kearns. “I met my best friends on that team. Coach Hykey really emphasized team bonding and it definitely made us closer and more connected on the field as well.”
While it will be tough to miss her Lyndhurst friends, she’s ready for the challenges at Iona and in college soccer.