James Walsh became aware of Matt Vowinkel last year when he scored 27 goals in 15 games on the junior varsity level.
“We knew as a freshman he tore it up [on JV] and we figured we needed a goal-scoring presence up top and he really fills that role,” the Chaminade senior midfielder said.
The rest of the CHSAA is finding out about Vowinkel now after the sophomore forward scored a pair of goals 10 minutes apart in the second half to help lift Chaminade to a 2-0 win over St. John the Baptist in a pivotal CHSAA clash Thursday at Gold Star Stadium.
“We haven’t really had a guy up top who is a classic poacher,” Chaminade coach Mike Gallagher said. “I think that’s Matty’s role. He does look like he’s 17 or 18 years old, but he’s just 15. He’s got a different presence about him.”
Vowinkel broke the tense, scoreless draw in the 64th minute when he took a ball off his chest that was headed back in the mix by Kevin Lee, beat the Cougars offside trap and clinically finished with the outside of his right foot into lower corner of the right post from 19 yards.
Chaminade (5-3-1), ranked No. 9 on Long Island by MSG Varsity, put the game away 10 minutes later when Walsh got behind the St. John the Baptist defense and played a sublime ball from the left touchline to Vowinkel, who beat Cougars goalkeeper Nick Maldarella with a glancing header inside the far post for his seventh goal of the season.
“Right when I saw it on his foot I was hoping he’d put it over both defenders and he just slid it right in there,” Vowinkel said of Walsh.
The victory came less than 48 hours after an emotional 1-0 win at St. Anthony’s, in which sophomore goalkeeper Yanni Rigos made 17 saves and Vowinkel helped set up Brian Moran’s seventh-minute winner.
Gallagher anticipated a letdown against St. John the Baptist – at least for a little while.
“The first half was expected after the emotional game on Tuesday. Even at training yesterday we talked about recognizing this will the kind of lull, but don’t let it turn into three and four goals,” Gallagher said. “We were kind of lethargic in the first 20-30 minutes, but we snapped out of it.”
The Flyers did that in a big way after halftime.
Michael Tek was spectacular off the bench as a left back who served in numerous dangerous balls, Walsh played what Gallagher called “his best 45 minutes” in the second half and Rigos was solid again. He made 10 saves, including parrying away a screaming shot by Chris Abruzzo from 20 yards in the 32nd minute.
Two minutes from halftime, Abruzzo latched onto a Nick Lamentino corner kick, but Rigos saved his glancing header.
Not to be outdone, Maldarella robbed Vowinkel, who was played into the box on a perfect ball by Nick Lavinio, who made a terrific ball-winning sliding tackle in the midfield in the closing seconds of the first half.
The Cougars (4-2), ranked No. 8 on Long Island by MSG Varsity, came into the game riding a three-match winning streak with Aiden Keenan leading the CHSAA with 12 goals. However, led by James Brady and Walsh, the Flyers did a solid job of bottling up Abruzzo in the center of the park and not allowing Keenan much quality service.
Vowinkel did the rest as the Flyers celebrated back-to-back wins against their stiffest competition in the CHSAA.
“It was a very good week,” Walsh said.