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Defense sets tone for Oceanside


With only one defeat and four goals allowed through seven games, Oceanside (3-1-3) is one of four teams in contention for the top spot in Nassau Conference AA-I girls’ soccer.

“We have a younger group with good balance,” coach Marianna Winchester said. “We pass beautifully and have speed on the outside. The only issue so far is we’re just not finishing enough. It we can covert more it’ll make a big difference in the second half of the season.”

The Sailors boast one of their youngest rosters in recent memory, Winchester said, with only four seniors. One of those, co-captain Michaela Romagno, could miss the remainder of the regular season and possibly more after a knee-on-knee collision was diagnosed as a sprain. “It’s a big loss and we’re hoping to have her for the playoffs,” Winchester said of the fourth-year center-midfielder who earned All-Conference honors in 2019.

In Romagno’s absence, junior Emma Mihale has risen to the occasion and picked up the slack, Winchester said. Senior Isabella Lazzaro, who helped Oceanside go undefeated on the way to capturing the Conference AA-II title last season, moved to center from the outside. She scored 6 goals and assisted on 8 others and was named All-Class. “Bella has strong distribution skills and stats don’t really show how talented she is,” Winchester said.

At outside midfield, junior Emme Schnell and Olivia Deserio play at a fast pace and help the Sailors get moving in transition.

Up front, juniors Victoria Gamarra (3) and Nora Nestico have found the back of the net a combined 5 times, while freshman Helena Nestico picked up her first varsity goal. Winchester is looking for the trio to reach the scoresheet even more over the last five conference games.

The coach considers a defense led by junior Lily Johnson and sophomore Gianna Fucile to rank among the best in the conference. Both are center backs supported by senior Olivia Losurdo and junior Alyssa Strandberg on the outside. Junior Olivia Nestico is also a key defensive contributor. Johnson usually draws the toughest marking assignment. “Lily is very quick and makes smart decisions,” Winchester said of Johnson. Fucile is speedy like Johnson and possesses one of the strongest legs on the team. She handles all free kicks.

In goal, Winchester said she has two excellent options in juniors Sophie Weissman and Natalie Medigno. They’ve already combined for 5 shutouts. “They’ve split halves for the most part and are playing really well,” she said.

The Sailors are the only team to hold an advantage over undefeated Massapequa at the half so far and played their best games at Syosset and Plainview, according to Winchester. “We went neck-and-neck the entire games against Syosset and Plainview,” she noted. “We were equal or better and only came away with ties. I’d like to see us turn those into wins the second time around when we’ll be at home.”