Ben Szemerenyi’s original intent was to put some major spin on a corner kick towards the Regis 18-yard box just minutes into overtime. Szemerenyi was not only shocked at what happened next, but so were his Chaminade teammates.
Szemerenyi watched the corner kick curl untouched into the net for a memorable ‘Olimpico’ game-winning overtime goal in the 85th minute to help Chaminade earn its third consecutive CHSAA state boys soccer title in a 2-1 win over Regis on Sunday afternoon at St. John’s University.
“I kicked it and basically, I don’t know what the air time was, but to me it felt like ages and when it hit the net, that’s when it snaps you back into reality,” Szemerenyi said.”
The happy reality was that Szemerenyi had sailed a corner kick perfectly past the Regis defenders and leaping goalkeeper Andrew Ceonzo to cap off another fantastic season for the defending NSCHAAA champions. Chaminade, ranked No. 12 in the News 12 Varsity Tri-State Top 20 poll, ended the season with a 17-4-2 record.
“Luckily the wind took it in and I was not expecting it. But the feeling when it went in was just incredible,” Szemerenyi said.” To score from a corner was completely unexpected and it almost never happens.”
The Flyers absorbed early pressure and was able to get out in front in the 23rd minute. Miscommunication between Ceonzo and Regis defender Gearoid Kennedy allowed Kevin Lynch to pounce on a loose ball and skip his shot attempt into the net for a 1-0 Chaminade lead.
Regis (16-5-3), ranked No. 13 in the Tri-State by News 12 Varsity, was not undaunted by the early deficit. The CHSAA Intersectional city champions controlled the midfield and sent wave after wave of pressure, especially on set pieces, to threaten the Flyers defense.
Regis got the breakthrough when an unmarked Kennedy lifted a pass to Liam Nicholson as the junior midfielder headed a ball with pace that ended in the top right corner of the net to make it a 1-1 game in the 49th minute.
Szemerenyi admitted he had to drop back from his forward spot to a wingback position to help the Flyers defense hold off the Raiders, who enjoyed the majority of possession for the rest of the second half. But a young Chaminade team, especially the defense, bent but ultimately did not break.
“Its all been about the experience. This whole season has been about experiences and about learning from the bad experiences to make it better,” Chaminade co-coach Alvaro Phan said. “We learned from our good experiences and made it great”.
In a game decided by the narrowest of margins, it was only a few mistakes that kept Regis from winning its first state title. Yet it was quite a joyous ride for Regis, which won the Archdiocesan title for the first time since 2002 and captured the city title for the first time.
“I love these guys,” Regis coach Vincent Catapano said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys on and off the field. We have the right balance of still having fun with the game and being serious at the same time.”
The future may even look brighter next season with Chaminade returning the bulk of its starters and an impressive younger class coming in. Szemerenyi is proud this year’s team proved they made its mark on the pitch.
“I think at the beginning of the season was how this team was going to do losing all those seniors,” Szemerenyi said. “We had to prove to everybody saying those things and prove to ourselves that even though we are a junior-heavy team, we can still do as well as those seniors and keep winning.”