Mepham’s Manuel Garcia barely got a taste of the playing varsity boys soccer last spring. The sophomore was called up for the Pirates’ regular season finale.
"It was just one game," he said, "but it was an awesome experience."
Now, Garcia and that sophomore group — which has blossomed into 13 juniors — is providing Mepham with plenty of awesome experiences.
Garcia came off the bench and scored a goal in each half as host Mepham dominated from start-to-finish in a convincing 5-0 non-league win against previously-unbeaten South Side on Wednesday.
"When we practice, it’s extremely intense," said Garcia, who scored his first two varsity goals. "From our defense to the midfield to our forwards, we’re dangerous."
That danger was on full display throughout the match of Nassau Class A unbeatens.
Senior defender Carter Chiarello, and juniors Deshaun Maitland and Sean Scott each had a goal and an assist. Junior midfielder Konstantinos Karousis added an assist for Mepham (5-0-1) which is in first place in Nassau Conference A-I.
The Pirates’ defense of Chiarello and senior Emiliano Avalos Paiz, and juniors Jeffrey Decina and Dimitri Gogas helped junior goalies Julian Murcia and Nicholas Parisi (3 saves each) earn a shutout.
There were times during the match that Mepham head coach Zachary Gosse and assistant coach Steve Fotinos looked like they were playing a game of FIFA 21 the way they positioned their Pirates on various offensive possessions.
"It’s fun," Gosse said. "But the best decision we made was last spring when we decided to have nine sophomores start. They all came back . . . and now they’re a very mature group."
Gosse was able to play all 18 of his players who were healthy against South Side (4-1).
"We started the season strong," said Avalos Paiz, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Wednesday. "We’re on a streak and we want to keep things going this way."
Gosse added: "We knew we would be strong, because all our sophomores played so much last season. But I didn’t think we would come together so quickly."
The Pirates realize it is a long season. But they have high expectations for their program, which won their only Nassau boys soccer title in 2018.
"We have goals," said Garcia, who only played 25 minutes. "We hope to get to [the Nassau A title game], and then see how far we can go."
The sweet taste of victory.