CBy Colin Capece ’18
Chaminade Varsity Soccer ended its incredible season with a dominant victory in the CHSAA state championship game on Sunday, November 15. Hoping to watch Chaminade win its first state championship in half a decade, fans packed into the bleachers at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University. The fans got what they wished and witnessed one of the most memorable matches in the history of the Chaminade soccer program.
The top two soccer programs in New York State faced off, as the Chaminade Flyers met the Crusaders of Canisius High School from Buffalo. The game was packed with high pressure attacks, strong defense, and amazing goals.
Just moments after the opening whistle, Chaminade had its first scoring chance. Left back Matt O’Connor ’16 lofted a cross into the eighteen-yard box for junior captain Matt Vowinkel ’17, who leapt into the air and collided with the Canisius goalkeeper. While he didn’t score on the play, Vowinkel did manage to set the tone for the Flyers and foreshadow that this game would be a physical match.
The Crusaders seemed to have a game plan for Vowinkel, Chaminade’s leading scorer this season, as they continually attempted to draw the striker offsides during the opening minutes. Said Vowinkel, “It was extremely frustrating those first 10 minutes or so. There were a couple of times where I thought I was on-sides but they called me off.”
With increased pressure on Vowinkel, A.J. Codispoti ’17 took advantage of the situation and gave the Canisius backline fits all afternoon. In the 29th minute, he broke through with the Flyers’ first goal, a beautiful left footed volley off a cross from Dylan Dwyer ’16.
Canisius had a great scoring opportunity off a cross from the left wing just a few moments later, but it was wasted by a mishit from the Crusaders’ striker. The Flyers’ defense made sure that was the only scoring chance for the Crusaders, as the backline of Dwyer, O’Connor, Nicholas Milano ’17, and senior captain Kevin Lee ’16 proved to be impenetrable.
With four minutes to go in the first half, Vowinkel finally found a soft spot in the Canisius defense. After making a great run from the middle of the field, he took the ball from Jack Graziano ’17 and placed a shot into the corner of the net, giving Chaminade a commanding 2-0 lead going into halftime.
After the break, the Crusaders came out with added intensity, looking to compensate for their deficit; however, the defense for the Flyers remained rock solid in front of goalkeeper Yanni Rigos ’17, who continued to frustrate the Crusaders. The turning point in the match came when that building frustration from the Crusaders tipped over the edge.
In the 45th minute, Nick Milano, who has already been declared next year’s soccer captain, shielded the ball from a Canisius striker, and the two got tangled up. The Canisius striker dragged Milano to the ground and put him in a John Cena-like choke hold, forcing both teams to rush together and the referees to rush in to break up the dispute. After things calmed down, the striker for Canisius was red carded, leaving the Crusaders with only ten men on the field.
Just a few moments after the incident, midfielder Tim Davis ’17 received a pass in the middle of the field and turned around an oncoming defender. Davis spotted Codispoti streaking for the goal and played a perfect pass to his teammate. Codispoti then slotted the ball past the keeper for his second goal of the day.
Chaminade struck again just seconds later. After a turnover from a Crusaders’ defender, the ball bounced to Davis, who chipped a beautiful ball to Vowinkel. The junior controlled the pass with his chest, and poked the ball past the keeper for his second goal, all but sealing the deal for the Flyers.
“After being offsides so many times I was just hoping for one goal, but two just feels incredible,” said Vowinkel.
With two minutes left in the game, senior captain Nick Lavinio ’16 put the finishing touches on a remarkable performance by the Flyers. Playing in his final game for Chaminade, Lavinio found himself wide open on the left wing, and after receiving a ball played from the defense, he rifled a shot into the back of the net for the Flyer’s fifth goal of the afternoon.
Despite the importance of this particular game, Coach Michael Gallagher, Assistant Coaches Alvaro Phan and Matthew Chicavich ‘98 were able to have their entire squad contribute. Jason Ward ’16 and Matt Tomlinson ’17 each made an impact coming off the bench. Reserve goalkeeper Kevin Martinez ’16 received thunderous applause from the Chaminade supporters after being subbed in for Rigos.
“I’m so thankful coach gave me one last chance to play in my senior year. I have the utmost respect for him, and he’s done such a terrific job as our coach this year,” said Martinez.
When the final whistle blew, Chaminade had captured its 5th state title in school history with a dominant 5-0 victory. The overjoyed Flyers rushed the field, dogpiling on top of Martinez. Soon after the initial celebration, Coach Gallagher accepted the CHSAA State Title plaque, along with the customary Gatorade bath from his players.
“These guys have worked so hard all year long to get to this point,” said Martinez. “After losing to St. Anthony’s in the league finals last year, we came in with a chip on our shoulders from day one, and now we’re state champions.”