Youth movement for Lady Pirates

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Injuries and graduation have hit Mepham hard on the girls' soccer field, as the Lady Pirates have lost major playmakers on both offense and defense. Training camp turned into a battleground for playing time on a team with just eight upperclass players (five seniors, three juniors) and a large group of talented freshmen and eight-graders. "The group of ninth-graders is dynamite," coach Jim McManus said. "They just need seasoning and they need to play."

Junior sweeper Sali Ayinde anchors a defense that has to make up for the loss of its starting goalie who capped her Mepham career by winning the Howie Gould award as Nassau County's best at the position. Ayinde, a three-year starter, will again control the back line and aid in keeping the pressure off of the new goalie. Senior Sharon Aluma and sophomore Alexa Rinaudo each had their eyes on winning the lion's share of the time keeping opponent's off the scoreboard. Rinaudo saw one half of action at the varsity level last season, spending much of her time playing on the junior varsity team, while Aluma was the varsity backup.

Aluma made nine saves in shutting out Wantagh.

Junior Safi Ayinde spent most of last season at stopper, but McManus was using preseason camp to find out what position would best suit her and the Lady Pirates. "[Safi and Sali] are not only skilled, they're smart soccer players," he said. "They're familiar with certain situations."

A pair of four-year players, seniors Casey Estey and Patti Grodski, anchor the Mepham midfield. Estey remains in the middle, while the team is hoping on a full return by Grodski who injured her knee playing lacrosse last spring. 

Freshmen Kelsey Simpson and Ashley Appel are vying for time at forward, because the Lady Pirates have to replace one of their most potent weapons, senior Jillian Picinich, who's likely lost for the season due to injury. Simpson, who saw time as an eighth-grader and worked well with Picinich, scored in the opener along with freshman Gabby Weiner.

Mepham travels to take on Jericho Monday, its third game in seven days, and returns from a bye for a road game at Bethpage on Sept. 25.

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