WALL — Physically impaired, emotionally devastated and bedridden.
It’s not the way any individual deserves to spend life, but four years ago it was the reality facing St. Rose netminder Andrew Vinca.
Back in the fall of 2014, Vinca was preparing to enter the Frozen Roses program as a promising young goaltending prospect, and the heir-apparent to former St. Rose standout Andrew Terracciano, who closed out his senior campaign by lifting the Belmar-based program to a Shore Conference Tournament semifinals appearance.
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In Vinca, St. Rose saw a sturdy foundation to further fortify their foothold as a local power over the next four years.
The Devastating Diagnosis
That was until the freshman made a fateful trip to his doctor two days before the start of the 2014-15 season…and learned his career was in jeopardy before it even got started.
“I went to get checked out, and was diagnosed with a degenerative disc disorder in my back,” Vinca explained. “I was told that I had permanent damage to my spine, and that there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to play again.”
The news left Vinca staggered, and what’s more, cutoff from his friends, family and teammates.
“It was really hard to go through it, especially in the beginning, because I spent two months stuck in bed, not even going to school, and just watching TV,” Vinca said. “I couldn’t really move around much and actually gained about 40 pounds…It was definitely a life-changing experience.”
Working His Way Back
In Vinca’s absence, winger Will Lemonie stepped into the crease and was more than serviceable in two-years as the starter, before Steven Gibilisco took over between the pipes a season ago.
While he watched others assume the role he was pegged to hold, Vinca stayed close to the club, working his way back into playing shape, and waiting for an opportunity to take the reins.
That moment came this past pre-season, when Gibilisco revealed that he would be transferring from St. Rose to his districted school of Manasquan, a team he’ll be eligible to compete with in January (due to NJSIAA transfer rules).
It was the opening Vinca was waiting for, and served as further motivation for the senior to not only compete in camp, but win the starting job outright.
“Andrew’s progression from the start of the pre-season to opening night has been dramatic,” first-year Frozen Roses coach Stephen Scanapicco said. “He didn’t just step into the starters role. We didn’t want to hand it to him. He won the job, and I think that’s given him a lot of confidence heading into the regular season.”
Back Between The Pipes
St. Rose played host to fellow local parochial power and perennial state title contender, CBA, on opening night, and though the Colts took a 4-0 decision from the Frozen Roses, Vinca starred, stopping 30 of 34 shots…However, for the senior keeper, the evening was less about the result, and more about his journey back to the crease.
“I was thinking about this game and this moment for the last four years…even as far back as eighth grade when I was told I was going to be the only goalie on the team,” said Vinca following his season debut.
“This was the one game I could not stop thinking about, and I didn’t get to play it until my senior year. But I feel like I had a strong game. And it feels amazing. There’s no other word to describe it, other than amazing…and it’s given me so much confidence moving forward.”
UP NEXT: Vinca will lead St. Rose back into action on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Middletown Ice World, where the Frozen Roses are scheduled for a 7:50 p.m. puck drop.
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