Benjamin Szemerenyi heard the whistle and immediately knew what he had to do. He needed to score.
The Chaminade senior had watched his team cling to a one-goal lead for most of the game, but with the ball at his feet, Szemerenyi was certain he could give the Flyers some much-needed breathing room. So he did, scoring on a penalty kick with 23:07 left to help lead top-seeded Chaminade to its fourth straight CHSAA soccer championship, defeating No. 2 St. Anthony’s, 3-0, at Hofstra on Sunday.
“I aimed for the same place I always do and it went in,” Szemerenyi said. “It was the best feeling ever. Today was our day.”
Chaminade (15-5) jumped out to a 1-0 lead 23 seconds into the game when Brendan Slattery scored off an assist from Francesco Artusa. It was an unexpected start for the Flyers, but Chaminade knew St. Anthony’s would look to bring pressure quickly.
“We didn’t expect anything within seconds of the game,” Chaminade assistant coach Alvaro Phan said. “It was a bit of luck, but the question was could we hold onto that lead for the next 89-plus minutes.”
St. Anthony’s (13-7-1) controlled tempo for much of the first half, pushing the ball forward and peppering the Chaminade defense with shots. Flyers senior goalkeeper Andrew Hammersley hardly batted an eyelash, standing tall between the pipes and keeping the Friars' from netting the equalizer.
“I was trying to come off the crosses and be aggressive,” said Hammersley, who finished with six saves. “[St. Anthony’s likes] to play balls over the top, so you’ve got to pick them off and make sure they don’t get any opportunities.”
Hammersley said Chaminade focused on its offensive approach during halftime and while the Flyers held the one-goal lead into the break, the team was determined to pad its cushion as quickly as possible.
“We knew we couldn’t lose,” Hammersley said. “It wasn’t an option, so we had to keep going.”
Szemerenyi helped the Flyers exhale midway through the second half, netting his second penalty kick in as many games and jump-starting the Chaminade offense. Michael Lynch made it a 3-0 game with 21:20 left, working past a handful of defenders to find the back of the net.
“That was the springboard,” Szemerenyi said of his goal. “We scored again and from that moment on, we had it locked down and controlled.”
Chaminade returns to the state tournament with its sights set on a fourth consecutive championship, but first the Flyers will have to contend with St. Francis Prep, the Brooklyn/Queens champion, in a semifinal on Nov. 9 at St. John’s University.
“It’s all about preparation,” Phan said. “We’ve got two games left, we can take it all or it can be over in one. We’ve got to be ready.”