Rob Leamey has a good memory.
The St. Anthony’s senior goalkeeper remembers playing against Matt Barresi when the two were on opposite teams in the Dix Hills soccer league as youngsters.
“His [Barresi’s] team always was the big team — they went to nationals,” Leamey recalled recently. “So when we played them, it was a big to-do.”
Now that they are high school teammates, the big to-do is for the duo to help the Friars claim their first outright CHSAA title since 2009. (St. Anthony’s was a CHSAA co-champion with Chaminade and advanced in the CHSAA state playoffs in 2013 and 2014. However, the Friars have not won an outright league crown in eight years.)
Chaminade has dominated the CHSAA the past two years with back-to-back CHSAA state crowns, but the Flyers graduated nine starters from last season’s title team. Enter the Friars.
“In previous years, it’s been St. Anthony’s and Chaminade, but Kellenberg has been really strong the past couple of years, so it’s going to be interesting,” Leamey said. “Our main objective is to get to that league final.”
St. Anthony’s has the talent to reach the CHSAA final, and win, led by Leamey, who had 12 shutouts last season. The Friars’ defense allowed one goal or fewer in 18 of the team’s 23 games. (St. Anthony’s went 18-2-3 a year ago.) Senior defenders Barresi, Andrew Weltner and Sean Mitchell hope to make Leamey’s job easier.
“I have complete confidence in him. I trust him with everything,” Barresi said about Leamey. “It’s almost as if there’s a fifth defender in the back that we can play with that gives us an advantage on the field.”
Chaminade returns just two starters from last year’s title team: senior midfielder Tim de Meij and senior defender John Murphy.
The challenge for the Flyers and coach Mike Gallagher will be how quickly first-year starting seniors and the juniors handle new roles and more playing time.
This could be the year that a third team enters the CHSAA championship mix. Senior defender Giuseppe Coppola, one of the best players in the CHSAA, leads an improving Kellenberg, which could be quite competitive.