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Clinton’s soccer team exceeds expectations in ‘A’ Division

The players on the DeWitt Clinton girls’ soccer team were adamant about playing Tuesday. Sure, rain was falling down, soaking their old artificial turf. And yes, the temperature felt like early March rather than early May. To make matters worse, Truman, the Governors’ opponent, was late arriving, and when the Mustangs did get there, they had just nine players.

“Can we play them 9-on-9?” Governors senior Chavelle McKenzie asked, almost to herself during warm-ups.

“I don’t care if we have to wait an hour,” junior Sylvia Ayisi told coach Omar Osorio.

It almost was that long. Truman’s players finally arrived at 4:45 p.m. and the game, scheduled for 4 p.m., got underway minutes after.

“We didn’t come this far to win by forfeit,” Ayisi said.

No, but Clinton did win outright. McKenzie scored twice and junior Alisa Redzic also had two goals to lead the Governors to a 4-0 win against the Mustangs in PSAL Bronx A girls’ soccer.

It was the latest victory in a surprisingly successful season for Clinton (6-1-1 Bronx A-I). The Governors moved up from Class B last season as part of the league’s realignment and lost leading scorer Raycine Taylor to graduation. The players admitted to being somewhat surprised at how well the team has come together.

One of the biggest reasons is the emergence of McKenzie, who has shown a keen eye for finishing in only her second season playing varsity. She has 15 goals, good enough for sixth-best in the entire PSAL.

“She has shown a lot of heart,” Osorio said. “I can’t believe she’s the scoring leader for [Bronx A].”

It isn’t just her, though – someone has to get McKenzie the ball. Redzic and Ayisi have been solid in the midfield and senior sweeper Karishma Persaud and freshman Rosa Mariano, who Osorio calls a budding star, are steady on the backline. Junior goalkeeper Laura Julian is a natural athlete between the pipes.

“It takes 11 to win,” Osorio said. “Everything we do, we do in unison.”

That includes all the pre- and post-game work, like setting up the nets and putting out the corner flags. Osorio never has to tell his players to do those menial tasks; it has become tradition.

“We set up before he comes out,” Persaud said.

Clinton has a huge game coming up Thursday against Columbus. The two teams played to a scoreless draw April 2. It’s crucial if the Governors want to stay in second place in Bronx A-I. Despite the even game last month, Clinton is pretty confident.

There are two games that are not guaranteed in their division and the Governors know it. Bronx Science is a PSAL powerhouse, filled with club players who have been playing soccer for years. The two teams couldn’t be more different. Science beat Clinton, 6-2, on April 23 and before the game Osorio told his players, flat out, that they wouldn’t beat the Wolverines. But McKenzie said the coach underestimated his team.

There’s another loss that has bothered the Governors. Clinton was seeded No. 2 in last year’s Class B playoffs, but, after a bye, was upset by No. 14 Queens HS of Teaching, 3-1, in the second round. In fairness to Clinton, QHST wouldn’t have been seeded that low if star Alyssa Faller, perhaps the best ‘B’ league player ever, wasn’t injured the entire regular season.

“It hurt,” Persaud said. “That game was ours.”

So this year the goal is to make it past the second round. The ‘A’ is tougher, of course. But the Governors have built up confidence. And with most of the core returning – 14th-year coach Osorio has chosen the girls over his Clinton boys’ soccer team – Clinton should be a solid team now and in the near future.

Rain or shine.

“That’s what I instill in my players,” Osorio said of his players wanting to play no matter what Tuesday. “I make them love the game.”

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