FBy John Hance ‘17
For the past two seasons, the Flyers varsity soccer team has accomplished much, with forward Matthew Vowinkel ’17 leading the way. “He’s the heart and soul of the team,” said teammate Jack Nuttall ’17. “We wouldn’t be here without him.”
The super striker scored 26 goals and was voted an All-American and the Gatorade State Player of the Year as he led his squad to the state title last year, but he had netted only 12 goals this season, and none in his team’s two regular season matches against St. Anthony’s. Vowinkel instead focused on distribution and creation for his teammates, as he recorded eight assists in the 2016 campaign. To defeat the Friars in the NSCHSAA Final for the second straight season on Sunday, November 6, however, his spectacular goal-scoring abilities were needed.
On the brisk November evening, both Chaminade and St. Anthony’s had vocal support from students, parents, and fans, who screamed for all 100-plus minutes of competitive contest, making an already intense match into an instant classic. Under the lights of Adelphi University, last night’s NSCHSAA Final was underway at 7:00 p.m.
The Flyers’ offense began churning early and forcefully against a fierce Friar defense, one which Chaminade had not scored against in the team’s two regular season meetings. With head coach Mr. Michael Gallagher boldly moving his fullback Andrea Codispotti ’17 to the forward position, the left-footed senior would be paired with Vowinkel, a move later proven successful.
After 15 minutes of fairly even play, concerted work between the midfield and the Flyers’ strikers found its payoff. Vowinkel put his team on the board with a headed goal off Tim Davis ’17 corner kick to take the early lead, breaking the scoreless stalemate. Over the next 25 minutes, the teams exchanged back-and-forth play, with Yanni Rigos ’17 making a number of solid saves before Giancarlo Franco of St. Anthony’s equalizing score — a fine strike in the 40th minute that evaded Rigos. With both teams creating chances and defending well, no winner could be predicted as the squads headed into the half.
After halftime, the teams continued to exchange solid play, with some notable tries from Alec Brutschin ’17 in the 70th minute and a Vowinkel shot greeted by an incredible diving save by the Friars’ goalkeeper, Rob Leamey. The teams pressed for a final goal before the pressure cooker of sudden-death extra time, but the score remained 1-1 when the clock reached zeroes at the end of the second half.
The ten-minute first half of extra time came and went without a score for either side, and, as the teams regrouped before the start of the second overtime, it was easy to sense the anticipation for a possible penalty shootout. The prospective dread of such a well-matched final being decided by random fate hung overbearingly in the packed crowd. For Vowinkel’s part, though, another plan awaited the Flyers.
With just minutes to spare before penalties, junior John Murphy lofted a ball to Vowinkel in the box. The striker critically finished, beating Leamey and burying the golden goal in the back of the net. With the shot, Chaminade managed to repeat its NSCHSAA championship title over St. Anthony’s. In utter jubilation, the Flyers took to their faithful fans, celebrating with friends and classmates near the electrified student section.
After winning his second straight title over St. Anthony’s, Nuttall had only praise for the rival. “They’re a truly great team. They push us to our limits every year,” he said. The senior defender noted that not every goal has been accomplished yet, and that “we have our hardest week of practice ahead of us” as the team prepares for Friday’s state semifinal matchup against Fordham Prep at St. John’s University.
What lies ahead for the Flyers remains unseen, but it is without a shadow of a doubt that the group has already achieved glorious victory. The second-seeded Flyers entered play Sunday having lost to and tied with St. Anthony’s in the regular season, yet perseverance and ability led the tightly-knit team to overcome the circumstances in claiming championship renown.