By Colin Capece ’18
High expectations are nothing new for the Chaminade varsity soccer team, and recent history has shown that the Crimson and Gold know how to live up to the well-deserved hype. After USA Today ranked the Flyers fifth in the nation at the start of last season, the team delivered a second consecutive state title, the sixth in the soccer program’s proud history. Last season’s squad, comprised mostly of battle-tested seniors, developed an identity as one of the grittiest teams in the tri-state area. The Flyers displayed true championship resolve, emerging victorious in three straight overtime postseason games before dismantling Canisius 6-0 in the state final.
Recently ranked fourth in this year’s USA Today poll, Chaminade will once again start the season among the nation’s top high school teams as they look to hoist the state championship plaque for the seventh time in school history. However, with 10 of last year’s starters lost to graduation, the 2017 Flyers must develop their own identity in order to continue the soccer program’s tradition of excellence.
This year’s team is one of the youngest that head coach Mr. Michael Gallagher has had in recent memory, and it may take some time before the Flyers discover a starting eleven that they can depend on. There are question marks all over the field for this team, but the defense will be anchored by captain John Murphy ’18, the only returning starter from the 2016 squad. He’s confident that he can step into his leadership role and help guide the team throughout the season.
“There will definitely be some challenges since we are such a young team. We’re going to make some mistakes,” said Murphy. “My job is to use my experience from last year to help our guys learn from these mistakes and be a better team.”
The offense will remain a mystery until the regular season gets underway. Last year’s team could put the ball in the back of the net almost at will thanks to the powerful finishing ability of Gatorade All-American Matt Vowinkel ’17. Finding a reliable goal scorer and other weapons to contribute off the bench will be a major key to the upcoming season. Players such as Ben Szemerenyi ’19 and Kevin Lynch ’18 will look to provide an offensive spark.
The midfield will also be a work in progress for the Crimson and Gold. Senior Tim de Meij, who started a few games last season, will likely man one of the midfield positions to begin the year. Juniors like Jose Peña and Rafael Achury, as well as seniors Will Honan ’18 and Brendan Franko ’18, will need to contribute as well in order for the Flyers to continue their success on the pitch.
Finally, new goalkeepers Andrew Hammersley ’19, Colin Lawless ’19, Justin Mechetti ’19, and Anthony Rumfola ’19 will all compete for the starting job and attempt to fill the void created by the exit of 2016 All-Long Island selection Yanni Rigos ’17. Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s squad, right back Chris Mercadante ’18 is confident that the Flyers can overcome the departure of last year’s talented seniors.
“In terms of replacing some of the major starters from last year’s team, both juniors and seniors are going to have to step up. I am confident that we have the talent to do it, though,” said Mercadante.
A three-peat will not come easily for Chaminade, considering that they will once again face a very difficult schedule. Archrival St. Anthony’s always poses the biggest threat to the Flyers, but the improving Kellenberg Memorial team is a dark horse contender for the Catholic League crown. Chaminade will also face two of the top teams from New Jersey when they travel to Delbarton and St. Benedict’s Prep.
Mercadante feels that the defending state champions are ready to face these challenges thanks to their offseason training program led by Gallagher.
Mercadante explained, “One of the greatest things that Coach Gallagher does is maintain a certain level of intensity from year to year. Summer training has definitely been intense. It’s an atmosphere where you’re counting on the guy next to you to work just as hard as you are.”
The Flyers kick off league play on September 14 when they square off against Holy Trinity. The 2017 season is about to begin, and while it will be challenging to eclipse the achievements of the departed senior class, this year’s players are eager to write their own legacy as they chase a third straight New York State title.