Before winning the CHSAA boys soccer state title, Chaminade coach Michael Gallagher watched with tears as his team celebrated its Long Island championship at Adelphi Nov. 4.
For Gallagher, it was a tumultuous day. His mother passed away that morning in Florida and he thought telling his players was not “the right thing to do.”
Latest HS sports stories
“I generally don’t cry at soccer games,” Gallagher said. “That was the reason I was so up and down.”
Following that victory, the players spent the first half of the nine-day stretch until the state semifinal practicing without their coach. But the Flyers never stopped playing for him.
“Once we beat St. Anthony’s we were just overjoyed about winning the championship and then we heard the news and we were completely devastated,” said senior defender Kevin Lee. “Just that feeling that your coach had someone he was very close with pass away, the whole team just knew we were playing the rest of the season just for him and that made us play a lot harder and a lot better.”
Chaminade (18-2-2) — led by captains Lee, senior midfielder Nick Lavinio and junior forward Matt Vowinkel — won its final two games by a combined score of 8-0 en route to the school’s first state title since 2010 and fifth overall.
After losing to St. Anthony’s on penalty kicks in the 2013 and 2014 CHSAA final, Chaminade had motivation. And the Flyers were rewarded by defeating St. Anthony’s, 2-1, on the road in the regular-season finale.
“Being able to win that game,” Lee said, “everyone had a feeling like we just won the league and that’s when everyone realized this team was something special and that we could go far.”
And even in defeat, the Flyers learned about themselves. Chaminade lost to Brentwood, a Suffolk powerhouse, in the second game of the season. In mid-October they lost, 5-0, to New Jersey’s St. Benedict’s Prep, which finished co-No. 1 in USA Today’s national high school rankings.
Against Brentwood, Gallagher said, “We learned that we can kind of hang with the big boys. We proved that we could play with anybody even in the infancy of our season.” After the St. Benedict’s loss, he said, “We got our heads handed to us but I think they learned a lot and they stepped up and learned what the level is supposed to be like.”
Chaminade didn’t lose again — thanks in large part to a strong defense consisting of Lee, Matthew O’Connor, Dylan Dwyer and goalkeeper Yanni Rigos. And as Lee called this state championship “amazing,” he felt it was even more special to celebrate with Gallagher.
Said Lee, “Just seeing the whole team and him smile after we won that championship on the field was just the perfect finish to my Chaminade career.”