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South Side's Josh Levine, Jericho's Tyler McElhinney are keepers of faith

Goalkeepers Tyler McElinney of Jericho, left, and Josh

Goalkeepers Tyler McElinney of Jericho, left, and Josh Levine of Rockville Centre pose for a portrait during the Newsday 2015 boys soccer season preview photo shoot at company headquarters on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Credit: James Escher

Josh Levine and Tyler McElhinney stood together at Newsday's Players to Watch photoshoot last week, sharing laughs and conversation.

Over the years, they've shared a lot more.

Levine, a South Side senior, and McElhinney, a Jericho sophomore, have traveled the United States together with the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association. They have received instruction from the same goalkeeper coach, and they have competed in the same conference, Nassau A-I.

"Josh and I know each other very well," McElhinney said. "We have a lot of respect for each other."

They're widely regarded by opposing coaches as two of Nassau's best goalkeepers, but last year was their first season starting at the high school level.

Levine spent his first two years on varsity backing up now-Hofstra sophomore Thomas Germano. McElhinney made varsity as an eighth-grader and was a reserve for Reed Ginsberg, who won MVP in Jericho's 2013 Class A state championship.

Each said he benefited from working with such accomplished goalkeepers.

"You get to see what they do on the field," the 6-3 Levine said. "I had a great goalkeeper ahead of me. I was very lucky, very fortunate. He was one of the greatest teachers of all time."

Levine stepped in as a junior, recorded seven shutouts and led South Side to the Nassau Class A title. Coach Fred Paul said Levine has received interest from mid-to-high level Division I programs.

"If Josh was on a different team with a different goalie," Paul said, "he would have been starting as a freshman."

That was the reality for McElhinney, who recorded six shutouts and led Jericho to the No. 9 seed. As a former goalie who won the 1996 national championship with St. John's and played professionally for three years, Jericho coach Dani Braga said he would be the 6-foot McElhinney's biggest critic. Instead, he could only rave.

"He's continued to grow exponentially every single year," Braga said. "Not just his size. It's his maturity level, his awareness of the game."

Levine (eight saves) and South Side got the better of McElhinney (eight saves) and Jericho, 1-0, in the teams' regular-season match on Sept. 11. Each goalie respects his peer.

"It's always a great time playing against each other," McElhinney said. "It's competitive but we always keep it friendly after the game."

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