The Jericho boys soccer team may have come of age this week.
While Jericho is steeped in history with seven county titles and four state crowns since 2004, this season’s roster is packed with sophomores and juniors. They didn’t have what it took to beat MacArthur on Monday but bounced back with a mature and poised performance against a loaded Mepham squad on Wednesday, posting a 1-0 Nassau A East victory to remain in contention for the division crown.
“We learned today what it takes to win an important game,” senior midfielder Peter Mandery said. “We needed to get that trust in each other. We had it today.”
Mepham has an arsenal of talented playmakers and scorers and was the aggressor for most of the game. After a scoreless first half, Jericho (5-2, 4-1) managed only a pair of good scoring opportunities in the second half but converted one that was the difference in the game.
The Jayhawks put together a run at the Pirates goal. Mandery had shot deflected into the air and junior midfielder Rowan Ragozino went airborne to get it. At the apex of his leap, he drilled a shot into the left side of the net for a lead with 30:45 to play.
“That goal was a bomb,” Jericho coach Dani Braga said. “Rowan is a fantastic player and is great with the ball. That was no easy shot and he hammered it.”
“I saw it coming down and that was the opportunity,” Ragozino said. “I was just able to strike right through the ball.”
Mepham (4-3-1, 3-2) was relentless in pursuit of a tying score for the final 30 minutes, but the Jayhawks defense held up with strong play by sophomore keeper Tyler Chawla and backs Reilly Minor, a sophomore, and Justin Worst, a junior.
Chawla is playing his first season in goal and had five of his nine saves in the final 30 minutes. Worst foiled several Pirate forays toward the goal. And Minor came up in a major way; moved to center back for the first time because of an injury to sophomore starter Ben Orr, he made a half dozen plays in front of Chawla to prevent Mepham from getting more shots off.
“Their players are amazing,” Minor said of the Pirates. “They do everything good on attack. To shut them down is an accomplishment, not something a lot of teams could do.”
Added Chawla: “Our defense stayed connected and focused. If you lose focus for a minute, they have a lot of good scorers and one of them will get you.”
Seniors Kosta Karousis and Dom Saraceni and juniors Deshaun Maitland and Sean Scott all showed their considerable offensive skills to keep Jericho under the gun, but as Pirates coach Zachary Gosse said “we had to make more out of the opportunities we got — we usually do.”
“I thought Mepham was the team to beat this season,” Braga said. “We beat them today, but I still think they might be come playoff time.”