Girls Soccer: Competing helps Westerville North's Isa Mercurio stay on task
Playing for the Westerville North girls soccer team is about more than competition to senior defensive midfielder Isa Mercurio.
She works hard in the classroom — she has a 5.1 weighted GPA — so the Warriors provide a needed outlet. When she steps onto the turf for practice or a game, Mercurio gets a chance to decompress and enjoy time with some of her best friends.
“I think it’s a nice break and it helps me to get my mind off (academics) or other things,” she said. “Honestly, it helps me to focus on other things."
Mercurio had two goals and one assist through 13 games, but coach Jason McLead said scoring really isn’t what her game is all about.
“Isa is a strong kid and is obviously very intelligent,” said McLead, whose team was 7-5-1 overall before playing DeSales on Oct. 8 and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital Division before facing Dublin Scioto on Oct. 13. “She’s very cerebral with the game.
“She is really good in the air, and she has a 100 percent motor. Her strength makes her a good defender, and she is at every conditioning session and never misses anything.”
Mercurio said communication is one of the most important parts of being on the defensive end of the field.
“I think to be a good defensive midfielder, a lot of it has to do with communication and being aware of your surroundings on the field,” she said. “Also, there is a lot of distribution and getting the ball to the attack and getting up the field.”
As a senior, Mercurio has learned it's sometimes necessary to become a vocal leader, which is a little out of character for her.
“I’m definitely more of a reserved person,” she said. “That’s who I naturally am. So as a leader, I’m more of a leader by example. I’m vocal when I need to be, but for the most part, I try to lead by example and do what I can.
“I think my role has changed a lot (as a senior). It’s important for me to be a good communicator and good role model. Obviously I tried to be a good role model in the other seasons, but this year people are looking to me more, and it’s important that I am that good role model. I do the best I can for my teammates.”
Mercurio had help to prepare for the season, even during delays in team workouts caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Her sister, sophomore goalie Gaby Mercurio, was there for encouragement.
“The two of us would work out together,” Isa Mercurio said. “Coach would send out different things we needed to be working on and it helped having her there so we could motivate each other. Sometimes it was hard just to get off the couch and work out. So having her there as an extra source of motivation helped a lot.
“I think (the pandemic-related delay in team workouts) taught me a lot about the importance of putting in hard work on my own. That was hard a lot of times because we weren’t sure if we were having a season or if it would happen. It was important to keep working hard despite all of the unknowns.”
The next unknown for Mercurio is college. She is looking into Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Vanderbilt, among others.
“I am looking to major in a medical field, possibly occupational therapy or nursing,” she said. "I took a biomedical science course when I was a junior. It was one of my favorite classes, and it kind of sparked my interest in the biomedical sciences.
“I have been playing since I was about 6, and I have played all four years of high school. I play soccer because it’s fun despite it can be hard at times. When this is over, I’ll remember bonding with my teammates and spending time with all of my friends on the team.”