Kennedy Knights silence critics

The John F. Kennedy Knights lost in the semifinals to Grover Cleveland, but quickly rebounded to beat the Midwood Hornets to take third place in the Boys’ Varsity Volleyball Championship. - Photo by Jon Minners

Rumors of Kennedy’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

The Knights kept their winning volleyball tradition alive, ending their season with a strong 25-18 and 25-12 win over the Midwood Hornets on Thursday, May 22, at Hunter College, to take third place in the PSAL Championship. 

While Kennedy did not advance into the finals, losing to Grover Cleveland earlier that Tuesday (Benjamin Cardozo would win the championship), the third place finish marks a dramatic improvement for a team many doubted all season. 

“No one had faith in us,” said senior Christopher Valverde.  “Because of how last season ended, everyone said Kennedy was over; the volleyball program was dead.”

Last season, the defending champions showed no life in the playoffs, losing in only the second round to Grover Cleveland.  This year, Kennedy advanced into the semifinals, and while they lost to the same team, it was a startling difference from 2007. 

“It was a good match,” said coach Iris Bromfield.  “They may have lost, but they have nothing to be disappointed about.  The scores reflect how well they played.”

Kennedy kept it close, and led by Aruni Piantini (17 assists), Arturo Cabrera (10 kills), and David Minaya (19 digs), pushed Grover Cleveland to the limit, losing 25-22 and 25-23. 

“Everyone really stepped up,” said Piantini, a senior. “It’s just a shame that we couldn’t move further into the tournament.”

According to Bromfield, only a few service errors hurt her team.  She was not at all disappointed with their performance. 

“Both teams were fighting right until the very end,” she said.  “It really could have gone either way.”

Kennedy didn’t let the loss get them down.  The group arrived in good spirits at Hunter two days later.  There was a unique vibe in the air as they awaited their match with Midwood.   

“They told me they wanted the seniors to play and just have fun out there,” said Bromfield.  “That’s what I allowed them to do.  They have come such a long way.”

For a team once filled with inexperience, Kennedy proved they belonged with a strong showing against Midwood. 

Whether it was Piantini setting up to Brian Francisco for a kill; Valverde leaping into the air with a spike that always seemed to find a hole in Midwood’s defense; or the amazing play of rookie Ross Vizcaino, a basketball standout recruited at the start of the season, who seemed to have Midwood’s number, easily blocking the spikes by Tara Grynyk and Borek Mateusz, while landing several intense kills of his own; Kennedy was dominant, playing like a championship team throughout. 

“We have fun, but we play hard,” Vizcaino, a junior, said.  “We really wanted first place, but taking third place, out of over 100 schools, feels good.  We’ll take first place next year.”

More from Around NYC