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Youthful Mepham remains in contention

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Two seasons removed from capturing its first-ever Nassau County boys’ soccer championship, Mepham is looking to continue its run of consecutive playoff appearances under coach Zachary Gosse.

The Pirates, boasting their youngest roster in Gosse’s five years at the helm, stand at 3-3-1 with three games remaining. They need to finish at least .500 or as one of the top two teams in its conference to reach the playoffs for a fourth straight campaign.

“We’re still in the mix for the conference title,” Gosse said after what he described as an encouraging performance in a 1-0 loss to undefeated Garden City on April 6. “We’re junior- and sophomore-heavy and we have some very talented players I haven’t had the opportunity to coach until this season.”

Mepham returned only three starters from 2019 but has been boosted by some club and academy players, including senior Brandon Hislop who was named captain along with returning senior defensive center-midfielder John Tucci. Hislop, who plays goalkeeper for his academy squad, made his debut between the pipes for the Pirates against Garden City and dazzled with 12 saves. He’s also their leading goal scorer.

“He’s a strong leader and that’s why he’s a captain,” Gosse said of Hislop, who has 6 goals. “He wanted to play forward because he hasn’t had the chance since he was much younger. He’s scoring goals so now we have some figuring out to do.”

Senior Tyler Trupo is Mepham’s returning starting goalie who played every game last season and a “solid shot-stopper,” Gosse said. Trupo already has a pair of shutouts, including a 4-0 victory over New Hyde Park in a game the coach said was the Pirates’ most complete effort.

Tucci, a gritty and physical player, is part of a deep midfield and also is getting plenty of minutes in the back with junior Carter Chiarello dealing with an injury. Other keys to the midfield are seniors Ralph Pascarella, who has been limited by his outside soccer schedule, and high-energy Aidan McLaughlin, junior Emiliano Avalos Paiz and sophomores Konstantinos Karousis, Kyle Persaud and Dominic Saraceni.

Avalos Paiz has proven a big addition. He’s a transfer from Queens who anticipates well and contributes at both ends. He scored Mepham’s first goal of the season. Karousis is a varsity returnee who’s elevated his game to earn a starting role. Persaud is a nifty distributor, Gosse noted, and Saraceni is providing an offensive spark with 2 goals and 2 assists.

In the back, senior Ryan Stevanovich is a returning starter in the center who is strong in the air and anticipates well. Junior Robert Tansey also starts in the middle and brings size and a strong leg. Sophomore Demetri Gogas is a speedy outside back who likes to move the ball and get the Pirates going in transition.

“We’re trying to play the right way and get forward as a team and not just kick the ball down the field,” Gosse said.