MCCC Women’s Soccer Star-Studded Season Ends in Semi-Finals Upset


West Windsor, N.J. – The first huddle before the 2019 Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women’s soccer playoff game was oddly quiet. The players, usually chatty and cracking jokes right up to kickoff, were anxiously awaiting their coach’s words of wisdom.

“Look girls, I found a penny on heads.”

No one knew how to respond to Head Coach Elyse Diamond’s fascination with the tiny copperhead. So, she repeated it.

“It’s a penny on heads,” she said. “Everyone, make sure you touch it.”

One by one, members of the soccer team reached in and gave the coin a swipe.

“This is a sign of good things to come,” Diamond added as each player took a turn. “We know what happened against this team last time, and I don’t think it will happen again.”

For the semi-final round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I women’s soccer playoffs, Mercer was squaring off against Essex County College. Earlier in the 2019 season, the Vikings fell 1-0 following a hotly contested, overtime goal by Essex’s Chresilda Cox.

Cox’s goal stood and so did MCCC’s loss. At the time, the Lady Vikings had dropped just three of their 10 games. The sting of defeat lingered a bit longer than normal.

Despite Diamond’s pleadings, the rematch, which came on Essex’s home turf on Oct. 26, saw Mercer strong-armed through the first 40 minutes. Mercer’s first score came with 10 seconds left in the first half, via Jamie Ervin off a Sthephany Da Silva Viana assist.  

The pair connected for another Ervin goal 18 minutes later, tying the game and reviving Mercer’s post-season hopes. And while Essex netting a third ball at the 85-minute mark was enough to eliminated the Lady Vikings from title contention, Diamond reflected that her players’ confidence in each other made for a standout season.

“[Games like the semi-finals match] show character and poise,” Diamond said at the season’s end. “They didn’t fold or get down on themselves, which is easy to do.”

In the months since the Lady Vikings’ narrow defeat in the NJCAA playoffs, the team has had plenty to celebrate. A 12-6 record stands as the best season women’s soccer has had in Diamond’s five-year tenure, matching the win total from the last three seasons combined.

Regional awards were plentiful. Six players made the All-Garden State Athletic Conference Teams: Jamie Ervin earned first team honors, while Gabby DeLisa, Emanuely Dos Santos, Isabella Moraes, Giuliana Pocino and Sthephany Da Silva Viana made the second team. Ervin and Pocino also secured spots on the NJCAA All-Region 19 team, and Ervin was designated Region Player of the Year.

While the local acclaim was great, Diamond said that the team got the most mileage out of their post-season banquet. The team dinner marks a change of pace following months of competition on the road and at home.

“The banquet builds chemistry. These girls get to see each other in a different light,” said Diamond. In addition to celebrating a season well played, the ceremony included a series of team-curated awards that rivaled the distinctions from the conference and region.

Brianna [Papamanolis] was our most improved player – I saw her confidence grow all season long,” Diamond said. “She was really coachable. Her touches significantly improved by the end of the season."

Other team honors included the Bravest Defender (Courtney Fox), Most Energetic (Kat Lemanski), Best Teammate (Rowahn Mohamed) and Most Likely to Become Coach (Erica Lutz).

The team also recognized the contributions of assistant coaches Taylor Nelson and Karissa Estelle. Products of Mercer’s soccer program, Nelson and Estelle joined ahead of the 2019 season.

“This is the first time I’ve had a pair of full-time coaches,” Diamond explained. “Taylor and Karissa were people the girls could relate to – they were in their shoes not long ago.”

Diamond boasted that in addition to the consistency with her coaches, only three sophomores will graduate from the 2019 team, leaving a strong foundation for a 2020 return. Pocino (13 goals, 7 assists) and Viana (9 goals, 14 assists) should pace the offense, while DeLisa, Lemanski and Fox (118 saves) will secure the Lady Vikings’ back line.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this squad,” Diamond said. “We never settled for anything less than winning together.”

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women's soccer banquet 2019


The 2019 Women's Soccer Team poses at their 2019 awards banquet.