When the 2006 season began two weeks ago and Troncoso put the Falcons' first lineup card together, he couldn't believe his eyes. Position by position, player after player, the same thing kept popping up - sophomore...sophomore...sophomore.
All totaled, there were seven second-year players among the nine starters that HFA placed on the field for the first game.
"I knew we were going to be young, but I never expected anything like that," said Troncoso, who began his 16th season as the HFA head coach. "It's a first. We never had a team quite this young. I thought that we would have a team that would progress as the season went on."
The Falcons have only one senior on the roster, namely second baseman Stephanie Pareja. The remainder of the roster is consisted of underclassmen, mostly sophomores.
Leading the parade of sophomores is pitcher Grace Keller. The Hoboken resident had a brilliant freshman season a year ago, winning 19 games and batting .450, earning Hudson Reporter All-Area honors as a utility player.
"Grace is a year older, a year stronger and a year better," Troncoso said. "She already has a tremendous amount of experience, with all the different teams she plays for. She's going to have a big year for us."
But Keller is not the only sophomore pitcher the Falcons have. Michelle DeFillippo, whose older sister Tara is one of the all-time best softball performers in Holy Family history, is also a pitcher and takes the mound when Keller needs a day off. When she's not pitching, the younger DeFillippo, a native of Jersey City, is a left fielder for the Falcons.
But having two quality pitchers - both of whom are sophomores - makes Troncoso's job that much easier. "I really don't have to worry about our pitching," Troncoso said. "We have two knowledgeable kids who know what they have to do."
The first baseman is basketball standout Danielle Dundas, who is also a good soccer player. Dundas is just a good athlete who plays softball and hits the ball with authority.
Pareja, the Jersey City native and daughter of former St. Peter's College baseball great Pepe Pareja, gives the young Falcons leadership and stability.
The shortstop is Gabrielle Pellegrino, another sophomore. Troncoso loves the way Pellegrino takes over the infield defensively. Caitlin Veverka, another sophomore and another multi-talented athlete, plays third base at times, but also serves as Keller's catcher. Veverka is also a great soccer player.
"She's one of the best athletes in the county," Troncoso said.
When Veverka is not behind the plate, junior Sarah West does the catching. She's part of a tandem of West twins, with outfielder Samantha the other half.
In the sophomore packed outfield, DeFillippo is in left, Laney Fiuza is in center and returning starter Amanda Coletta, who made Hudson Reporter All-Area last year as a freshman outfielder. Coletta batted better than .400 last year and also has a ton of experience.
Junior Rosalia Barberi is a reserve outfielder and first baseman who will get her fair share of playing time this season.
Incredibly, the young Falcons have won all seven of their games thus far, much to the delight and surprise of the veteran head coach.
"I think we're a little more advanced than I thought we would be," Troncoso said. "I think they're exceeding expectations right now and playing a little better than I thought we would."
Included in the early wins are victories over state Parochial powers Pingry and Oak Knoll and a hard-fought 2-1 win over County Prep and standout hurler Danielle Gaffey.
So the sensational sophomores are 7-0. Not a bad start at all.
"I think we can compete with the big teams [namely St. Dominic Academy and North Bergen]," Troncoso said. "I definitely have a good feeling about this team. We may have our weaknesses, but once we get more playing time, we'll be fine."
Can't get much finer than 7-0. The young guns are definitely coming of age. - Jim Hague