Mepham girls’ soccer is looking to rebound off an injury-plagued season back into championship contention this fall.
The Pirates battled through adversity with little roster depth to a 3-7-1 record in the spring campaign one season removed from reaching the county finals. With a healthier team in place this fall, coach Janine Bizelia is hoping for a far brighter end to the end of 2021 that can establish a winning culture for the future.
“Everyone suffers from injuries and we just got hard all in one season,” Bizelia said. “We’re hoping this year is better for us on the injury front and we can get more results.”
Bizelia returns two experienced seniors who will be competing on the collegiate level next year in striker Luciana Setteducate (Stony Brook) and goalie Hailey Stork (Marist) who were integral parts of leading Mepham to the 2019 county championship game.
Setteducate, who first reached varsity as a seventh grader, provides versatility to the offense with an ability to play forward or midfield. The All-State player often played more of a defensive role as a junior to account for some of the team’s injuries and Bizelia hopes she can return to being an offensive force for her final high school season.
“When she gets the ball and she is playing up top there are always three girls around her,” said Bizelia of Setteducate. “She can strike the ball left foot or right foot.”
Other important pieces of the Mepham offense include senior forward Giovanna Barrett, who will play up top when Bizelia utilizes a 4-5-1 formation. Seniors Olivia Brill and Alyssa Schimmenti will also be key focal points of the offense either at midfield or forward.
The backline is anchored by Stork, who missed much of the spring season and is looking to return to her 2019 form when she recorded 16 saves in Mepham’s 3-2 overtime win against North Shore in the Class A semifinals. Patrolling the net in front of Stork is senior Adriana Iemma, a four-year varsity player, and freshman Addison Chiarello.
The first two weeks of Mepham’s season are being led by longtime assistant coach Keri Wisey while Bizelia spends time away from the team for maternity leave.
“Keri is amazing,” said Bizelia of her lieutenant on the sidelines. “We call her associate head coach since we both work great together.”
Mepham kicked off the season with a 2-1 home loss to MacArthur, last season’s Class A runner-ups before battling Plainedge to a 0-0 tie Saturday. The Pirates are next in action at defending Class A champion South Side Saturday at 9 a.m. followed by a neighborhood battle versus Wantagh at home on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m.
With a playoff berth guaranteed competing in Conference A1, Bizelia is looking for the team peak at the right time in October and can be positioned for an extended postseason run.
“Over time they will start gelling together,” Bizelia said. “If we stay injury free we could surprise some teams.”