Kennedy seeks postseason return

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As they open the season this week, the Kennedy Lady Cougars soccer team is hoping their lone non-conference game last Friday, a 3-0 victory at home over Seaford, was a sign of things to come.

The two goal-scorers, sophomore Rachel Nossen (who scored twice) and senior forward and captain Shelby Banner, are expected to bear much of the offensive load. And while coach Roland Clark praised his team’s ball movement, it was the performance of the new-look defense and senior keeper Jacklyn Maisonet that was perhaps the most promising.

“For the goalie and for that new defense to get the shutout was a little bit of a confidence boost,” Clark said. “We’ll see how we build upon that.”

The Lady Cougars enter this season with a small chip on their shoulder. After qualifying for the postseason a year ago – their third appearance in four years – they ended on a sour note, falling to Cold Spring Harbor on the road, 3-0, their first loss to the school in program history.

This year’s goal, Clark said, is not only to return to the postseason, but to finish in the top two in Conference AB2 to secure a first-round home game. And they have the tools to get there, he said.

Banner, a five-year starter, is coming of a seven-goal season. She has a tremendous left foot, her coach said, often shown when she sends a lethal crossing ball across the box to subvert a defensive double team. “She’s dangerous both inside and outside the 20-yard line,” said Clark, “and it’s those crosses that help get other people some goals.”

She’s complemented up front by the speed of senior co-captain Gabriella Grieser, a six-goal scorer last season who uses her keen soccer intellect to often put herself in prime goal-scoring position.

Helping to get the ball to these skill players will be sophomore Isabella Pace, an emerging player who Clark said has excellent field vision. “She can see the field and distribute the ball,” he said. “She’s going to be important for Gabby and Shelby.”

A pair of sophomores, Giuliana Mazzaferro, who played varsity last year as a freshman, and Blake Banner (Shelby’s sister) a varsity player since eighth grade, will anchor the defense. “For their age, they do have experience,” said Clark. They will be joined in the backfield by seniors Gabrielle Lewin and Zoe Weissbach.

Maisonet, who has split the keeper job with junior Dylan Manger in previous seasons, will take up full-time duties – potentially for the entire season – as Manger recovers from a dislocated shoulder.

Kennedy’s first conference game will be at home against Plainedge this Friday. Other key matchups include a rematch against Cold Spring Harbor on Sept. 22, and two games against crosstown rival Mepham on Sept. 27 and Oct. 16, the latter being their season finale.

“In the [Bellmore-Merrick] school district,” said Clark, “we’re kind of looked upon as one of the smaller schools. But that reputation of being a smaller school shouldn’t fool anyone. We’ve done a good job in Conference II, and we’ve sent a lot of girls to play college soccer over the last five years. These girls definitely work hard.”