There was one question that kept revolving around the Chaminade boys soccer team before and during this season: Can we do it again?
As in, could the Flyers win a third straight state CHSAA championship?
“I wasn’t thinking too much about it because I felt it might throw off my game,” senior midfielder Tim de Meij said. “Although it was obviously in the back of everyone’s mind.”
Chaminade coaches Alvaro Phan and Mike Gallagher graduated their entire starting lineup — and 15 seniors overall — from the Flyers’ 2016 championship team. The new lineup showed some cracks at the start of this season: a 7-2 loss against back-to-back Long Island Class A champ Amityville on Sept. 2.
“The loss kicked us into shape and made us realize it would be a lot of work to win states this year,” senior John C. Murphy said. “We just tried to find the system that worked for us.”
Slowly, but surely, the Flyers started figuring things out and went on a four-game win streak. After a pair of 3-0 non-league losses to nationally-ranked Delbarton and a solid Christian Brothers Academy, Chaminade had a 4-3 record, but was heading in the right direction.
The Flyers lost only once more the rest of the season (to another national power, St. Benedict’s Prep, N.J., 3-0, on Oct. 16) and went 13-1-1 in their final 15 games.
Chaminade featured the top four scorers in the CHSAA this season led by Ben Szemerenyi (12 goals, 10 assists), Brendan Slattery (10-8), de Meij (10-5), and Brendan Franko (9-5).
Murphy moved from defense to midfield early in the season, and earned CHSAA MVP honors. The Flyers also received contributions from Kevin Lynch, Gavin Ford, Evan Bandini, Francesco Artusa, Nico Primavera, Chris Mercadante and goalkeepers AJ Rumfola (MVP of the CHSAA final vs. St. Anthony’s) and backup Colin Lawless, who played and won three of Chaminade’s four postseason games.
“We made bad experiences into good experiences,” Phan said. “We made good experiences into better experiences, and better experiences into memorable ones.”
One of the most memorable ones of the season for the Flyers was when Szemerenyi scored the winning goal in overtime of the state CHSAA final. The goal set off a wild celebration, and helped these Flyers become a special part of the Chaminade tradition.
“We really have done what no other team in Chaminade history has done before with the help of the coaches,” de Meij said. “It’s amazing to be part of this historic team.”
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Holy Trinity, 5-1
St. Anthony’s, 1-0
Buffalo St. Joseph, 1-0
Regis, 2-1, OT