Defense sets tone for Kennedy


Returning a pair of All-Conference pillars in seniors Zach Weitz and Joe Strawa, Kennedy this autumn adds a finishing touch to its standout defense – ranked second in Nassau A3 boys’ soccer with five goals allowed through four games.

Junior goalie Antonino Scimeca has left his JV days far in the rear-view to lead Nassau with 37 saves, as Kennedy (1-3) – which won its Sept. 10 season opener 3-1 at Valley Stream North – seeks to erase a 3-7, pandemic-plagued spring and rectify its first postseason absence in six years.

“With the Covid situation we kind of sputtered last year, and our record showed that,” said seventh-year coach Ari Bisk, whose teams, aside from last spring, have qualified for playoffs in all but his first season. “Defensively, now, we’re very sound. We’re excited to have Nino Scimeca at goalkeeper. He’s showing great poise and confidence, as well as just being an excellent shot-stopper.”

Alongside fellow center back Youssof Bendary, the second year-starting Strawa headlines an all-senior, all-returning Cougars backfield, featuring outside backs Lorenzo Bonilla and Steven Fingeroth. “Our back line is really strong, difficult to beat off the dribble, very mobile,” Bisk said. “Joe Strawa’s a big, strong back. He wins balls in the air. Very tough to beat one-V-one.”

Mainstay Weitz, a two-time All-Conference honoree, starts a fourth season for Kennedy at midfield, joined by junior Ty Gelman – a third-year starter – and sophomores Jacob D'Arrigo and Christian Maltes. “Zach’s our guy who dominates the field in the middle,” Bisk said. “He has great dribbling skills and is a great passer. Ty is a very smart player, plays quality through-balls. Jacob’s an excellent distributor. He plays the ball quick, covers a lot of ground. Christian, also, plays the ball very quickly.”

Sophomore Jaden Waldinger has paced Kennedy’s offense with a goal and an assist, while fellow forward Brandon Sabillon (junior) and D’Arrigo also each have a tally, and Bendary an assist. “Jaden has an excellent shot,” Bisk said. “He’s got fast feet and has a very dangerous, long throw-in. Brandon’s probably our most dangerous attacker. A really good finisher and he can also defend. We’re glad to have Ethan’s passing abilities. He can also beat people one-on-one.”

Due for an eruption are Cougars spring goal leader Josh Platt and fellow junior Richie Ippoliti, who tallied twice to lead all scorers in a Labor Day Scrimmage at Wantagh. “Our offense is getting better,” Bisk said. “All the goals aren’t just coming from just one guy. More people are getting in on the scoring. We’ve got some depth and lots of guys can lead our offense.”

Having held A3’s co-leaders – Roosevelt (3-0) and South Side (4-0) – to a minimum of scoring, allowing three goals across two shutout losses, Kennedy looks to make up ground before back-to-back, possibly critical, rematches in early October. “Our conference is very competitive,” Bisk said. “There’s a few things we could clean up. But really, we don’t see why we can’t make a run in the playoffs, even to the finals.”