IBy Colin Capece ’18
It has often been said that good teams find a way to win games, even when they are not at their best. The Chaminade varsity soccer team did not deliver a typical performance in their CHSAA semifinal game against Kellenberg on Saturday night. The Firebirds nearly pulled off an incredible upset, but Chaminade managed to prevail with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory.
The Flyers found themselves reeling as they entered this semifinal matchup. In their previous game, for the first time in nearly a year, the defending New York State champions had felt the sting of defeat after suffering a 1-0 road loss to arch rival Saint Anthony’s. How would the Flyers respond to this adversity? Early on, the team looked nervous.
Just seconds into the match, the Flyers found themselves down a goal. A clearance from the Kellenberg back line settled at the foot of midfielder Jack Nuttall ’17. The senior attempted to play the ball back to defender A.J. Codispoti ’17, but a miscommunication between the two resulted in a giveaway to Kellenberg midfielder Daniel Pfeiffer. The junior took two touches to his right and then rifled a shot into the bottom left corner of the goal, beating Chaminade goalkeeper Yanni Rigos ’17 and stunning the Flyers.
Chaminade, however, would respond. In the tenth minute, Nuttall lofted a pass toward the left corner flag that was tracked down by Matthew Lane ’17, who had made a run down the sideline from his fullback position. Lane settled the ball and blew past his defender with an impressive scissor move. He was then fouled from behind, and Chaminade was awarded a penalty kick from the spot. Striker and team captain Matt Vowinkel ’17 calmly placed the ball into the bottom left corner to tie the game at 1. Said defender John Murphy ’18, “We dug ourselves a hole early in the game, but Matt made a great play down the sideline to win that penalty kick.”
After Vowinkel’s goal, the Flyers began to dominate the possession of the ball. However, the team struggled to create any quality scoring chances against the stingy Kellenberg defense. Vowinkel, arguably Chaminade’s most dangerous offensive weapon, struggled to fight through double teams for the rest of the night. The only place where Chaminade managed to find some opportunities was on set pieces. The Flyers’ size advantage proved difficult for the Firebirds to defend, and Chaminade finally managed to break the deadlock with three minutes to go in the first half.
Nuttall bent a left footed cross into the six yard box. The initial header by John Murphy ’18 was saved by the Kellenberg goalkeeper. But when the ball rebounded to Matt Tomlinson ’17, who had entered the game as a substitute, the forward smashed the deflection into the back of the net to give the Flyers a 2-1 advantage.
The Firebirds, determined to erase the deficit, came out of the half time break with a high pressure attack. Under duress, the Chaminade defense made some uncharacteristic mistakes. A missed clearance bounced to Kellenberg midfielder Timothy Betz, who tried a one-time strike from 30 yards away. Luckily for Chaminade, the ball rattled off the crossbar and was cleared. Pfeiffer again managed to find some space behind the Chaminade back-line. After a perfectly timed run, he received a through ball, only to find Rigos waiting for him. Rigos dove for the ball near the edge of the 18 yard box, and he appeared to touch the ball with his hand outside of the box. The Firebirds should have been awarded a penalty, but the referee missed the call, much to the dismay of the Kellenberg bench.
In the sixtieth minute, Chaminade’s defense finally cracked under the relentless Kellenberg pressure. Codispoti lost the ball 20 yards from goal and then clipped his man from behind inside the 18 yard box. Kellenberg was awarded a penalty kick. Forward Ray Minewiser, cool, calm and collected, ripped a shot into the top left corner as Rigos dove in the opposite direction. The equalizer made the score 2-2.
With the game tied once again, Kellenberg dropped ten players behind the midfield line. Chaminade could not break through this wall of Kellenberg defenders, and the two teams were still level at the end of regulation.
In the tenth minute of golden goal overtime period, the Firebirds continued their defense first approach. However, after nearly 100 minutes of physical soccer, the Kellenberg players appeared exhausted, and were now desperately clearing any ball that bounced their way in an attempt to force a penalty shootout. With just 53 ticks left on the clock, Matt Vowinkel finally found a soft spot in the Kellenberg defense. The captain received a centering pass from Tim Davis ’17 and turned to his right. He out-muscled his defender and drilled a shot past the Kellenberg keeper. Vowinkel pumped his fist in jubilation and was mobbed by his teammates, as the Kellenberg players could only watch in massive disappointment.
Chaminade had managed to survive a scare from their Marianist rivals and punch their ticket to the CHSAA final against a familiar foe. The Flyers know they will have to play better to win the championship game versus St. Anthony’s. Murphy stated that, similar to the semifinal game, the Flyers must finish the few scoring chances they will have. “We’ve been creating some good scoring chances, we just have to put them in the back of the net,” said Murphy. The Flyers will take on St. Anthony’s, the number one team in the tri-state area according to MSG Varsity, on November 6 at Adelphi for the right to be crowned league champions for a second year in a row.