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Mepham defeats North Shore in OT

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Some unfriendly posts and a determined Mepham side ended North Shore’s Cinderella run in the Nassau Class A girls’ soccer playoffs last Saturday evening.

Julia Rawlinson converted a perfect chip pass from fellow junior Emily Manzella with 6:25 remaining in double overtime to give the third-seeded Lady Pirates a 3-2 victory in the semifinals at Cold Spring Harbor. Sophomore keeper Hailey Stork made 15 saves for Mepham, which advanced to face No. 8 MacArthur in the county title game.

Seeded No. 10 after finishing third in Conference II, the Lady Vikings upset seventh-seeded Calhoun and second-seeded Garden City on their way to the semis. North Shore, in search of its second championship in three years, got goals from juniors Madison Berry and Isabella Tedesco.

“We had a great run and I thought we played an excellent game tonight,” North Shore coach Lauren Gotta said. “We had some unlucky shots, I think we hit the post four times, but also their goalie was incredible. It was a hard-fought game that could’ve went either way.”

The deciding goal was Rawlinson’s second of the evening and moved the Lady Pirates, third in Conference I during the regular season, within a win of their first-ever county crown. MacArthur, which defeated South Side 3-2 in the other semifinal, finished runner-up to Valley Stream South a year ago, also as the eighth seed.

“It was an insane game,” Mepham coach Janine Bizelia said. “Lauren’s a great coach and we went against North Shore in the playoffs a few years ago. It was a battle then and it was another battle tonight. Anybody in Conference II can play with anybody in Conference I. Our keeper saved us and we’ve got one more tough game to go.”

Mepham struck early when Rawlinson took a pass from sophomore Adriana Iemma and ripped a shot home 6:14 into the game for a 1-0 lead. The Lady Vikings would clang three shots off the post, including two off the foot of sophomore middie Morgan Griffin, before finally getting the equalizer with 3:22 remaining in the first half. Griffin hit a perfectly placed corner kick and Berry scored off a scramble.

The second half was a defensive struggle highlighted by the goalies — junior Giuliana Graziosi had six saves for North Shore — for the first 25 minutes. Then, with 12:01 left, the Lady Vikings took a 2-1 lead with Griffin setting up Tedesco.

Mepham needed less than two minutes to make it 2-2. Junior Briana Sayoc scored on a direct kick from 30 yards out. With 5:45 left in regulation, Stork made perhaps her biggest stop of the night, a lunging dive to deny Griffin.

“This was probably the most resilient group of kids I’ve ever coached,” Gotta said. “We’ve been adapting and overcoming adversity all season long. They worked hard to get to this point.”

Tedesco scored both goals in regulation in its 4-2 quarterfinal win over Garden City. Senior Gabby Scott notched the winner and sophomore Evelyn McCreery added the insurance. In the first round, Scott and McCreery scored and Graziosi made four saves in a 2-0 win at Calhoun.