Josh Zuckerman compared the function of a strong midfield to that of a spine. Without it, the rest of the body cannot function properly.
Luckily for the Bronx Science girls soccer coach, the center of his field features two of the best players in the city: seniors Taylor Murtaugh and Alex Bushman.
Though both play the same position (center midfield), their games couldn’t be more different. Murtaugh is a physical and relentless force, challenging for balls in the air, creating turnovers and getting the ball up to her forwards. She also has the ability to make extremely long and accurate throw-ins to create scoring chances.
Bushman, who scored 14 goals and dished out eight assists last season, is more offensive-minded. She looks to pressure defenders early into mistakes or slip behind them to start runs at the net. She can score with both feet, is fast and can create scoring chances from anywhere on the field.
The duo is looking to lead a team of seven seniors and a young supporting cast to a PSAL Class A title after losing in the semifinals the past three seasons. Its most recent setback was a 4-1 loss to eventual city champion McKee/Staten Island Tech last season.
They are surrounded by solid players in all areas of the field. Sophomore Phoebe Dawkins, senior Phoebe Mankiewicz, and junior Madison Gardiner make up an experienced defense. Freshman Miami Rahaman, who could see time at forward, will start at sweeper. Senior Stephanie Mazursky and sophomore Jackie Wideen will be up top at forward.
Sophomore defender Lucy Evert has been converted to a goalkeeper, a position that was a question mark this season for Science (14-1 last season) after the graduation of Gaby Baum. Evert looked more than capable of handling the job during a scrimmage against Riverdale on Wednesday morning.
Zuckerman, who coached the team from 1996 to midway through the 2006 season when he had a heart valve replaced, wants to see his team be more physical. He took over for Alec Mahrer, for whom he was an assistant for three seasons. Mahrer stayed on as coach of the Beacon boys soccer team after the girls season was moved to this fall because of the threat of a Title IX lawsuit.
Zuckerman said he believes it was their lack of aggressive play that was one of the main reasons for the loss to MSIT in the semifinals. Improving that will go a long way to creating a better memory.