Jayhawks Varsity Soccer Aims To Stay On Top

The 2019 Jericho Jayhawks varsity soccer team poses for their annual team photo. (Photo by Dani Braga)

The Jericho High School varsity soccer program looks to retake its spot at the top of Nassau County in 2019.

Led by head coach Dani Braga, who’s been with Jericho for eight years, the Jayhawks are determined to make a comeback this season. With Braga’s intense leadership ability, this team wants to not only win the Conference A-3 title, but advance deep into the Nassau County playoffs.

“As always, expectations are high,” Braga said. “Preparation is the most important, hard work and a little luck always helps.”

Captains Jordan Miller and Paolo Martino, a pair of seniors, are at the forefront of this year’s Jayhawks squad. Miller is considered to be one of the top players in the county, scoring eight goals and four assists last year. Ari Kantorowitz just moved back to the district, and he’s expected to perform well in 2019.

In the team’s season debut on Sept. 3 versus Carle Place, Kantorowitz scored a pair of goals, along with a point each by Kian Ghazzini, Matt Rothstein, Jack Medolla and Martino. The Jayhawks defeated Carle Place, 6-0.

In the goal post, Jake Levy led all of Nassau County with 141 saves in 2018. To put it into perspective, Bethpage’s John O’Connor was second in the county, totaling 111 saves.

Despite the strong performances by many of Jericho’s players last year, the team lost in the county quarterfinals to Mepham High School, 2-0.

“The soccer team is the main draw,” Braga said. “It’s the sports pride of the school. We have 80-plus kids trying out every year. Kids wants to be part of the program.”

Braga believes the key to success for this program is the team-first mentality. He emphasizes that the student-athletes shouldn’t be playing for their stat sheet, but for the sake of winning and learning as a group.

“If it’s between a shot from a poor angle as opposed to a pass to a wide-open teammate and they don’t make that pass, they’ll be taken out,” he said. “It’s strict discipline and they have to be on board with it, or they’ll find out they’re on the bench.”

The coach firmly believes the “only way to win is to take the individual out of the circumstance and make it a team-first philosophy.” He takes pride in getting the kids to buy into that mentality, and it continues to pay off.

Now, as the season begins to roll on, Braga attempts to lead this team to the state championship, just like he did from 2011-13.

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