Gaffary saves SJB as Cougars prevail
Michael Gaffary came far out of his goal and collided with Chaminade's Vincent Valenza. The St. John the Baptist goalkeeper stayed down, as did Valenza, and both sides summoned for their trainers with 30 minutes left in the game.
Gaffary got back up and stayed in the game, and so, too, did Valenza. Gaffary already had made a huge impact and his absence could have been the difference in the game. "I came out and got kneed in the eye," Gaffary said. "I was out for a couple of seconds. I am fine now. I'm alive."
So is St. John the Baptist. Gaffary made 10 saves as the No. 3 Cougars defeated host No. 2 Chaminade, 1-0, Tuesday in a CHSAA semifinal.
St. John the Baptist (10-3-3) will play St. Anthony's, a 2-0 winner over Kellenberg, in the finals at 5 p.m. Saturday at Adelphi.
"Michael was amazing," SJB's Junior Rosero said. "He kept us in this game."
With the game scoreless, Gaffary made two huge saves in the first three minutes of the second half as Chaminade (9-5-3) applied the pressure immediately.
"We were playing bad in the first 10 minutes of the second half," Gaffary said. "We were able to pull through it."
After weathering the Chaminade attack, the Cougars began to consistently push forward. After a shot deflected off a defender, Rosero found the ball at his foot and he sent it to the lower left corner for a goal with 26:27 left in the game.
"I usually stay in the back for a rebound off a corner kick," Rosero said. "I saw the rebound and got it in. It was off a defender and rolling to the 18."
The Cougars continued to attack and didn't play defensive with a 1-0 lead. Rosero almost scored twice before Chaminade turned it on. Gaffary made a save with 4:57 left in the game and the shot off the rebound went wide. Then Chaminade hit the post with 4:11 left.
"That was close," Gaffary said. "No one was marking the back post."
First-year St. John the Baptist coach Nick Gallagher, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant under his brother Mike at Chaminade, guided the Cougars to the finals for the first time since 2006 with a win over the defending CHSAA state champions.
"It was one of the only jobs I would have left Chaminade for because they have a good history and it's a good soccer job," Nick said. "Coming here to win is special. It's about these guys working so hard. It was a great win."