Mepham looks to defend title

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There will be a very new look for the 2018 Nassau Class A boys’ soccer champions this season.

Entering last season with 12 seniors on their roster, the Mepham Pirates rode a nearly impermeable defense and the playmaking abilities of their leading goal scorer to a 1-0 victory last October over top-seeded Garden City to earn their crown, only to see the majority of their players ride off into the sunset and graduate as county champs.

That graduating class included their top two goal scorers, All-American forward Andrew Weiner and midfielder Kieran Gilroy, as well as two key cogs in their backfield, Chris Cossu and Harry Davila.

And while fourth-year coach Zachary Gosse said the afterglow of their accomplishment could still be felt throughout training camp , his current squad is eager to forge a legacy of their own.

“We have a nice dynamic because there’s no star of the team anymore,” said Gosse. “The returning players have confidence in themselves and the program … and the young guys are now super motivated. They all know it’s going to take a whole team to get there.”

Six seniors do remain to carry on a winning environment dedicated to hard work and accountability that made Mepham so successful last season. However, Gosse acknowledged it won’t be easy to replace the 22 goals Weiner scored last season.

A natural first candidate to fill the void is one of his three senior captains, Gaetano Parisi, an athletic winger who is beginning his third year on varsity. “We’re really hoping he can step up and be a goal scorer this year,” Gosse said.

The other captains are Christian Murcia, a technically sound defender who Gosse hopes will become the team’s linchpin directing play at midfield, and 6-foot-3 center back Greg Paul, a composed leader who is a strong communicator in the backfield.

Stepping in at keeper is junior Tyler Trupo, who, after a stint on varsity as a sophomore as an injury replacement in 2017, opted to hang back on junior varsity last year to be the full-time net minder. “It was a great move for him,” Gosse said. “He’s come back as this super confident and composed goalkeeper.”

Other underclassmen Gosse said he’s excited about include junior forward Derek Stevanovic (whose twin brother Ryan will start as defender) and junior outside back Aidan McLaughlin; sophomore Carter Chiarello, an outside back who excels with his footwork; and freshman Konstantinos Karousis, a dynamic player who can contribute at multiple positions.

Though they’re young, Gosse said his players aren’t making any excuses. He’s fully aware that, as defending county champs, opponents will be viewing them with a target on their backs. That will certainly be the case, he said, when they opened the season on Monday against crosstown rival Calhoun, which resulted in a 2-0 win, and later in the season when they face Garden City in a rematch.

“It’s about us figuring out who we are as a team,” he said. “These guys are totally capable of getting back to the county championship. They’ve all bought into the program and that is the goal for the team: to get back and defend our title.”