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Mepham splits first four games

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Mepham graduated a dozen off the roster from a team that played for the 2019 Nassau Class AA girls’ soccer title, including early University of Tennessee enrollee Brianna Sayoc, who would’ve played her senior year for the Pirates in the fall had the season not been postponed to March.

“We’re not the same team after losing so many kids, but we’re playing better each game,” coach Janine Bizelia said. “We had a tough opener against South Side that we’ve rebounded well from.”

The Pirates split their first four games against Conference A-I rivals and have makeups against Wantagh and Valley Stream South remaining to complete the first half of the grind. “There are no easy games,” Bizelia said. “We’ve been switching formations based on the opponent and the girls have really adapted well to it.”

Mepham evened its record with a 4-2 rain-soaked victory over Garden City on March 24. Junior Alyssa Schimmenti continued her impressive play as a first-year member of the varsity with a pair of goals. Senior Rachel Eisert and freshman Emily Dvoskin also scored.

Eisert also scored in a 4-0 win over Manhasset the previous week. The third-year starter serves as a catalyst in the midfield and is a captain along with junior Luciana Setteducate. “Rachel has strong athletic attributes,” Bizelia said of Eisert, who is a key leader and communicator. “She wins a lot of 50-50s and is one of our targets on corner kicks.”

Dvoskin has made a smooth transition to the team as a center-midfielder, Bizelia said, and is crafty with the ball at her feet. At outside middie, Schimmenti has been the biggest surprise, the coach noted, and has racked up five goals with an accurate left foot. She notched a hat trick against Manhasset. Junior Olivia Brill is a returning starter on the right side and possesses a non-stop motor and impressive tactical skills. Freshman Ashley Felserg brings instant energy off the bench.

Up front, Setteducate is already in her fourth varsity season and is a proven playmaker. “She reads the game so well and has tremendous skills,” Bizelia said. “There are times she’s had three players defending against her.” Senior Julia Rawlinson, who had two crucial goals in Mepham’s semifinal playoff win over North Shore in 2019, and senior Karlie Willix, are other important pieces to the striker group.

Defensively, it all starts with junior goalkeeper Hailey Stork, who was an integral part of the playoff run. “Hailey has grown a ton and has a lot of experience,” Bizelia said. “She’s a leader other kids look up to.”

Senior sweeper Alicia Heller is the last line of defense and a talented three-sport athlete who’ll play lacrosse at the next level. Senior Emily Manzella and Adriana Iemma are thriving as outside backs.

The girls are so thrilled to be playing,” Bizelia said. “They enjoy each other’s company and I think we’re going to keep improving as the season goes on.”