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Freshman Christian Melendez's goal in sudden-victory overtime leads Mineola in Nassau A play-in game

Christian Melendez was not a varsity soccer player a week ago.

Yet Mineola's season might be over if not for the freshman's heroics on the pitch.

Melendez chased down Dimas Cabrera's through ball into the box and beat the keeper one-on-one six minutes into sudden-victory overtime, sending No. 14 Mineola past No. 19 Bethpage, 2-1, in a Nassau Class A play-in game Wednesday afternoon.

The Mustangs will visit No. 3 Glen Cove at 6 p.m. Friday for a first-round matchup.

"Kids go a whole high school career without experiencing this," coach Paul Pereira said. "I'm having fun watching him."

Because of an injury, Pereira needed a forward for Mineola's regular-season finale against Island Trees. "My JV coach kept telling me, 'You've got to see this kid Melendez,' " Pereira said. "He was the first guy that he mentioned."

Melendez made an immediate impact, starting and scoring once in the 2-1 win over Island Trees. He came off the bench midway through the second half against Bethpage and put himself in position for the winner.

"A lot of kids in that position shoot it wide, shoot it over," Pereira said. "He was as cool as a cucumber."

Melendez was not Mineola's only impact freshman who spent most of the season on JV. Manny Mirao made his third straight start in goal because of Joe Martin's foot injury and registered five saves.

"He's raw," Pereira said, "but you can see that he's going to develop into something pretty special."

Mineola began its Nassau ABC-III slate 0-3-1 but went 5-1-1 in its last seven matches to finish one game over .500 and make the playoffs.

"I'm glad we have the opportunity to show what we're made of," Pereira said. "I'm just enjoying the ride and seeing them have this much fun."


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