Game no. 32
By Clint Hull
IHSA Class 3A Class state championship game
St. Charles East Fighting Saints (29-1-1) vs. New Trier Trevians (28-0-
7 p.m. June 6 at North Central College
The final game of the IHSA spring season is set with an iconic match-up: the St. Charles East “Fighting Saints” vs the New Trier “Trevians.” These two programs are the gold standard of Illinois High School Soccer.
The schools have combined to win 14 state championships in the 32-year history of the IHSA girls soccer series.
The Saints won eight state titles (1990, 92, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 2000). The Trevians have collected six (2003, 04, 06, 2014, 15, and 16). They share the state record for the most consecutive games without a loss, 88 games, a feat the Saints accomplished between 1995-1999 and New Trier in 2002 through 2005.
The Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association have named five Saints their Player of the Year (Laurie Siedl, 1996 and 1997, Becky Myers, 1999, Anne Poulin, 2000, and Elle McCaslin, 2019).
Four Trevians have captured the honor (Maddie Johnson, 2004, KayAnn Gummersal, 2006, Kelly Maday, 2016, and Sydney Parker, 2018).
The matchup is is the second time these teams have met in the state championship game. In 2014 at North Central Stadium, New Trier beat St. Charles East 1-0 on a first half goal by Sarah Conners.
Both teams entered the 2020 season with unfinished business. In 2019, New Trier finished third in Illinois with a record of 22-3-5. The Trevians lost to Barrington 2-1 in the state semifinals. New Trier finished second in both 2017 and 2018, and this is All-American Emma Weavers final chance to win a state championship.
In 2019, the Saints finished the season at 22-6-0 and set a record for the most wins since St. Charles High School split into two schools (North and East in 2000). Three of the six losses came at the hands of St. Charles North.
The Fighting Saints exacted revenge this season. They beating the North Stars all three times they played this season including a 1-0 overtime victory in a sectional finals.
The Saints are looking to bring back the state championship trophy to St. Charles for the first time since 2000.
This is New Trier’s seventh-consecutive trip to the Final Four. New Trier enters the game with 28 wins and one tie. With a win they would be the first team in Class 3A history to go undefeated. They have scored ninety-five goals while only giving up 10 for an incredible .27 goals against average.
On the offensive end they are led by All-American Emma Weaver. Her 2019 campaign was one for the ages – 33 goals, 13 assists. The Villanova recruit was named an All-American and the 2019 and 2020 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.
Trevians coach Jim Burnside told Chicagoland Soccer writer Michael Wojtychiw “Last year was one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever had in a player. She might have surprised me this year.”
She did exactly that.
In 2020 Weaver has scored 41 goals to go along with 21 assists. During her four years varsity career, New Trier has an incredible 98-7-9 record finishing second in 2017 and 2018 before finishing third last year.
Junior forward Morgan Fagan has also had a break-out year. If teams double- or triple-team Weaver, Fagan will be there to take advantage.
Defensively senior goalie Courtney Charcut leads the backline of a New Trier defense that has posted 24 shutouts and has not given up a goal in the IHSA playoffs.
Hall of Fame coach Jim Burnside has won 557 games in his career, the most in the history of IHSA girls’ soccer.
A win would give St. Charles East the best record in school history. They have scored an incredible 145 goals. Senior Elle McCaslin leads the team with 34 goals and 18 assists.
Junior Hannah Miller has scored 21 goals and added a team-high 20 assists. Senior Jamie McDermott has also scored 16 times for the Saints.
An offensive statistic that stands out – every Saint on the roster with the exception of the two goalies has scored at least one goal.
Four-year Varsity starter Alondra Carranza is the Saints coach on the field. She can and does play wherever the Saints coaching staff believes the team needs her to play.
In tonight’s game, expect Carranza to get the tough assignment of marking Weaver. No one can stop Weaver, but Carranza may be one of the few players in the state that won’t be intimidated and can match Weaver’s athleticism and physicality.
There to help Carranza will be senior midfielders Margaret Harper and Christina Hull.
Harper does everything a coach needs a player to do to win a game. Hull has continued to grow as a player in her second season on Varsity. She worked extremely hard the past two seasons to earn a starting spot for the Saints. Her high soccer IQ allows her to see the gaps and openings needed for quick transitions. She has 18 assists on the year.
The Saints defense has a total of 22 shutouts and has only given up 13 goals heading into the title match. The backline is led by junior center back Jessica Stepien, who earned All-State honors for leading the Saints defense this year.
She is joined in the middle by Senior Kaitlin Gahagan. The two outside backs, Megan Stout and Lindsey Rzeszutko, give the Saints one of fastest and most athletic defenses in the state.
Sophomore goalie Sofia Iori came into the season untested. She and freshman Grace Stehman battled for the spot and have pushed each other all season long. Thirty-one games later the Saints know that she has the confidence to make the big save.
Head coach Vince DiNuzzo is assisted by Bruce Rasmussen and Wes Akers – both Saints alumni.
An interesting side note – Rasmussen is the brother-in-law of Marci Miller Jobson – a former Saint All-American and US National Team player (2005-2007). A number of Millers (Monica, Mary, Mindy, and Maggie) all played key roles for the Saints throughout the years.
Rasmussen’s daughter, Claire, started in the 2014 game against the Trevians.
The fans streamed into North Central’s stadium to see this epic match-up.
The stands were packed with former players who had traveled from all over the United States to watch the game. Saints Hall of Fame coach Tim Dailey was seen outside talking to his former players.
The starters were:
For the St. Charles East Fighting Saints: #2 Jamie McDermott; #3 Christina Hull; #8 Alondra Carranza; #9 Megan Stout; #12 Jessica Stepien; #13 Margaret Harper; #17 Hannah Miller; #22 Elle McCaslin; #23 Kaitlin Gahagan; #25 Lindsey Rzeszutko and in the net #99 Sofia Iori.
The Saints are coached by Vince DiNuzzo and assisted by Wes Akers and Bruce Rasmussen.
For the Trevians of New Trier: #1 goalie Courtney Charcut; #4 Erin McNally; #5 Jenna Birdsell; #6 Caroline Finnigan; #10 Alex Lampe; #12 Anna Marshall; #13 Ava Shah; #16 Sadie-Grace Richardson; #17 Naya Rhee; #18 Emma Weaver; and #19 Morgan Fagan.
The atmosphere was electric with everyone anxious to get the game started. The Saints locked hands as national anthem was played. Once the anthem finished the two teams walked down exchanging fist bumps while wishing one another good luck. Both teams ran back to their respective benches circling up one last time before the opening whistle.
The 2020 state championship was seconds away from kick-off.
The Saints elected to kick-off, and Alondra Carranza sent the ball deep to the right corner to begin the game. Forward Hannah Miller was off with the kick and immediately pressured the Trevians’ right back. The New Trier defender kicked the ball out of bounds deep in New Trier territory leading to a very dangerous throw-in just seconds in the game.
Defender Megan Stout ran over to the take the throw. Stout has perfected the flip-throw and can whip the ball deep into the box. The crowd was buzzing as Stout backed up with the ball to give herself room. Less than a minute had ticked off the clock and the Saints had an excellent opportunity to get on the board.
The Saints offense has excelled all season long on set pieces and coach DiNuzzo’s called out the play he wanted the team to run. Stout ran up, flipped, and with her adrenaline pumping threw the ball on a rope right toward the middle of the goal.
A group of Saints players make their runs on goal. Charcut, the New Trier keeper, came off her line calling her defenders off the ball. She had both fists together ready to punch the ball out of danger. It was an aggressive play by the senior keeper.
The Saints Alondra Carranza got to the ball just a millisecond before Charcut and flicked the ball far post with her head. The ball went just over Charcut’s hands and that was just what the Saints had drawn up. McCaslin had made her run far post and she timed her run perfectly. The New Trier defense was caught out of position and couldn’t recover before McCaslin headed the ball into the back of the net.
SAINTS GOAL!!!! SAINTS GOAL!!!
McCaslin sprinted the corner flag where she was mobbed by her teammates and the Saints bench. The Saints cheering section celebrated as well, belting out “STC, STC, STC.”
The scoreboard clock was stopped at 39:03 – the Saints had scored just 57 seconds into the championship match. The center referee issued a yellow card to the Saints due the excessive celebration. It was a yellow card coach DiNuzzo and his staff were happy to accept. Saints 1 – New Trier O.
New Trier took the early blow and recovered. Both teams settled in over the next 20 minutes, but neither team had any good scoring opportunities. Both teams were trying to figure out where the gaps existed.
Neither coach decided to man mark the others offensive star. New Trier’s Emma Weaver scored all three goals against the Saints in the Naperville Invitational championship game. Senior Alondra Carranza, although not marking Weaver 1-v.-1, was never far away from the New Trier All-American whenever she received the ball.
Likewise, New Trier coach Burnside assigned the responsibility of keeping McCaslin off the board to his entire backline. They were up to the challenge after McCaslin’s opening goal.
Both teams were playing very physical. Both teams made hard but fair tackles all over the field.
A Saints foul just inside the half-line gave New Trier their best look of the first half. The Trevians’ defender had a huge foot and could put the ball into the penalty box from the spot of the foul. Both teams set up just inside the 18 awaiting the kick. Both teams could be heard yelling “be first to the ball.”
The direct kick traveled deep into Saints territory and this time it was
Weaver who won the header. She re-directed the ball into the box where New Trier junior forward Fagan was waiting. Fagan got her foot on the ball, took one touch, and then laced a shot toward the Saints goal. Goalie Iori didn’t have a chance as the ball rocketed by her. Luckily for the Saints, the ball hit the right post. The Saints tracked the ball down and kicked it out of play.
The Saints had dodged a bullet. Coach DiNuzzo, Rasmussen, and Akers huddled and quickly sent a number of players to begin warming up. The Saints looked tired and rightfully so after a shootout victory against Neuqua Valley in the semifinals the night before.
The Saints subbed in five different players. On the backline Junior Ashley Brummel and Libby Thomas entered for Stout and Rzeszutko. Both players had done an incredible job thus far of keeping Weaver from scoring but both were exhausted.
Senior Lauren Arvizu subbed in for Christina Hull, who had worked extremely hard in the middle.
Junior Jenna Sitta came in at the other mid spot and Sidda Patel replaced Jamie McDermott. The Saints sub brought new energy to their side and it
led to a great opportunity for the Saints. Sitta won a ball at mid-field and made a nice pass to forward Hannah Miller. Miller found space down the sideline and took the ball all the way to the touch line. She cut the ball back to her right foot and centered the ball finding Patel open in the box.
Patel made a nice trap with her right foot before taking the shot. The shot was on goal but New Trier’s keeper was there to make the save. Just a minute later Miller again was the recipient of another nice pass – this time off the foot of the Saints Margaret Harper.
Miller ran right at her defender, made a nice move to get by her defender, and appeared to have an open look. Just as she was ready to let the shot go a New Trier defender slid in to clear the ball away.
Five minutes remained when the Saints sent more substitutes to the centerline. Sophomore Yasmin Martinez, junior Olivia Guerri, sophomore Anna Champine and senior Alex Lopez took the field. They came in and played extremely well.
Coach DiNuzzo has confidence in every player on his team telling anyone who would listen that every of his players has the talent to play extended minutes regardless of the match. These were crucial minutes for the Saints team as it let the other Saints players get some much needed rest to prepare for the second half.
Both teams played hard and the half ended with the Saints leading 1-0. The Saints were 40 minutes away from their ninth state championship.
The coaching staffs were busy talking about the adjustments they needed to make for the second half.
The Saints had to be pleased with their first half performance. They kept Weaver in check for most of the period. Anytime you can shut Weaver out in a half your defense has done a great job.
On the offensive side of the ball the Saints didn’t have a lot of quality opportunities but did manage to put one in the net for the 1-0 lead. It was unlikely they would change much of anything heading into the second half.
The coaching staff would need to continue to substitute freely to keep fresh legs throughout the game. The Saints had played three-consecutive overtime games so keeping players fresh was a concern for coach DiNuzzo and his staff.
For the Trevians, coach Burnside urged his team to do more to find Weaver. Although soccer is a team game, Burnside was aware that his All-American forward needed more touches on the ball for New Trier to score.
Weaver is a constant threat whenever she has the ball. Burnside urged his team to look for Weaver and to be prepared for the pass when the Saints collapsed on her.
Burnside’s team was calm and took the 1-0 half-time deficit in stride. They would not panic, just the opposite. The Trevians would come out with energy and look to get the tying goal. As the teams took the field for the second half, he could be heard encouraging them to be the aggressors
and get the game-tying goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Both teams took the field. For the Saints midfielder Maddy Brusven entered the game for the first time. McKenna Gahagan started in place of Margaret Harper giving Harper some additional rest. Harper had been battling Weaver throughout the first half and was happy to get an extra five minutes of rest so she could be fresh at the end of the game.
Both Brusven and M. Gahagan were fired up and ready to give the Saints coaching staff what they needed. The referee blew her whistle, and the second half started.
It was clear that New Trier team listened to the halftime talk. The midfielders looked for Weaver every time they won a ball. Weaver started to check back more than she had in the first half and started to receive the ball with her back to the goal. Just as Burnside had expected, the minute Weaver got her foot on the ball good things happened for his Trevians.
With about 28 minutes remaining in the game Weaver once again checked back for the ball about five yards outside the Saints penalty box. The pass came in high, and Weaver was forced to chest trap the ball down to her feet. In a turn that was so fast no one had time to react Weaver chested the ball down and to the right. The ball took a short hop, and Weaver volleyed it from about 25 yards.
No one anticipated the shot. That is what makes her so good. The ball rocketed off her foot, dipped just under the crossbar and went right into the Saints net. New Trier GOAL!! 1-1.
Although the equalizer didn’t come in the first 10 minutes it was close enough. With 28 minutes left in regulation, the game was tied.
The goal energized the Trevians, and they dominated the Saints for the next 15 minutes.
New Trier came at the Saints in waves, and it was a mixture of hard work and luck that kept the game tied at 1-1. The Saints looked tired. At the 20-minute mark New Trier’s Fagan was wide open in the box only to see Saints keeper Iori make an incredible save to keep the game tied.
Two minutes later Weaver hit the crossbar with another rocket. The Saints coaching staff continued to sub looking for the energy needed to change the flow of the game. Nothing worked.
Fifteen minutes remained when New Trier earned another corner kick. The Saints defense marked up and had two defenders on Weaver. The corner came in and Iori went high in the air for the ball.
Weaver got to the ball first and the ball appeared headed into the Saints goal. The Saints defense is disciplined and before every corner is taken the Saints made sure they have a defender assigned to cover both posts. On this corner defender Anna Champine was assigned far post.
Although the ball got by Iori – Champine was right where she was supposed to be -- standing on the goal line as the last defender. New Trier players, parents, and fans all started to rise to their feet raising their hands to celebrate the go-ahead goal as Weaver’s ball headed for the net. St.
Charles players, parents, and fans started to put their heads down dreading the result. Neither side saw Champine on the line until she headed the ball over the goal. The Saints breathed a collective sigh of relief and everyone high-fived Champine for her game-saving play. What a great play by the sophomore defender.
No matter the sport in most championship games you can look back to a play that seemed to change the outcome of the game and Champine’s header was that play for the Saints. Her goal-saving header seemed to wake up the Saints and the flow of the game changed.
Now it was the Saints on the attack and the Trevians holding on. Midfielder Christina Hull started to make her presence felt, and she penetrated the New Trier defense on two-consecutive plays that almost led to Saints goals.
Her first pass threaded the needle somehow splitting the two New Trier defenders. She found forward Jamie McDermott streaking to goal.
McDermott put a nice shot near-post that the Trevian keeper managed to save. Just a minute later Hull found Miller making a diagonal run on net. Miller collected the ball and took a hard shot that just went over the crossbar.
The clock showed 10 minutes remained in regulation. New Trier forwards Weaver and junior Caroline Finnigan put together a nice give-and-go to give Weaver another good look with about eight minutes left.
Iori made another save – her 11th of the night – to keep the game tied.
After the save Iori quickly punted the ball, and the New Trier defense got caught pushed too far up the field. The ball hit the turf at midfield and bounced high into the air. That bounce was all Jamie McDermott needed. She ran hard at the ball and headed the ball past the last New Trier defender.
McDermott was in the clear. She touched the ball once with the New Trier defenders sprinting behind her. She had a step on the two defenders that were trying to chase her down.
New Trier’s goalie Charcut read the play perfectly and came charging out of her net to cut down McDermott’s angle. McDermott touched the ball a final time about 10 yards outside of the box; she met Charcut at the top of the box.
As Charcut went to the ground to make the save, McDermott slid to the ground and extended her leg as far as she could. She toe-poked the ball just underneath the arms of Charcut. As the ball rolled towards the open net, time appeared to slow. Rotation after rotation moved it got closer and closer to crossing the goal line.
McDermott watched from the ground wishing the ball into the back of the net. The two Trevian defenders, who had been chasing McDermott, were now chasing the ball.
The only question was if McDermott got enough on the ball to keep the Trevians defenders from clearing it off the goal line.
The ball was on the stripe when junior defender Anna Marshall caught up to the ball. Marshall slid to the ground and kicked the ball away just before it crossed the goal line.
The Saints coaching staff raised their hands and pleaded with the assistant referee to raise her flag to signal a goal. The center referee looked to her perfectly positioned AR who was right on the goal line.
In order for a goal to be called the ball must completely cross the goal line. The AR shook her head to signal no goal, play on, and the the game remained tied at 1-1. What an incredible game saving play by the New Trier defender.
This game had everything one would want out of a championship game.
Five minutes remained and both teams pressed for the game-winning goal. At this point it was a battle of wills between two championship-caliber teams. Both teams refused to give up.
Both teams had outworked every other team in the state to put themselves in this position: off-season conditioning; 5:30 a.m.; practices on cold dark January and February mornings; two-mile runs; 120s until they had nothing left to give. All that time. All that effort. Four years of sacrifice all for this final five minutes with a chance to win a state championship.
The fans were on their feet cheering on their teams.
The Saints earned a corner kick with just under four minutes remaining. Although the Saints didn’t want to go into overtime, they didn’t want to give up a counter either. Miller ran to the corner to take the kick. Senior Alondra Carranza hung back along with the Saints backline.
The box was crowded with everyone grabbing jerseys, knocking hands down and positioning themselves to be the first one to get their head on the ball.
Miller hits two types of corners. The first lofts the ball into the box; she routinely placed that ball about 6-8 yards out each time.
The second type is a rocket. The upside to this corner is if a Saint gets her head on the ball the momentum will make it hard for any goalie to stop the ball from going in the net. The downside to this header is if an opponent gets their head on it first the ball will fly out of the box leading to a quick counter if the Saints flood the box.
Carranza knew Miller planned to hit a rocket so she backed herself up in case New Trier won the header. New Trier flooded the box bringing everyone, including Weaver, to defend. Weaver marked up McCaslin.
Miller’s hand came down, and she hit a rocket near post. A New Trier defender was waiting and headed the ball out of the box. The ball hit the turf just outside of the box where Carranza was waiting. She took one step towards the ball and hit a half-volley from about 20 yards.
Everyone in the stadium watched as the ball left her foot and sped towards the goal. The ball sizzled through the box managing to avoid all the bodies. New Trier keeper Charcut was screened and never saw the shot. The ball crossed the line and hit the side netting.
GOOOOOOOOAL!! SAINTS GOOOOOOAL!
The Saint took the lead 2-1. The clock showed 3:33 remained. Both teams collected themselves and prepared for New Trier’s final push and what a push it was.
The next 3:33 seconds was spent on the Saints half as the Saints tried to kill the game. Coach DiNuzzo had everyone playing defense including McCaslin, who pushed back and marked-up Weaver.
Weaver had McCaslin in front of her and Harper behind her. Harper was called for a foul with just under two minutes to go, and Weaver lined up a free kick just outside the box. Weaver, one of the best high school players in the entire country, was composed and refused to rush her shot.
Goalie Iori called for a wall with Rzeszutko, McCaslin, Harper, and Stepien lined up 10 yards from Weaver. Weaver lined up her shot and hit a liner that hit Stepien square; it was amazing she didn’t flinch.
Unfortunately, the ball bounced right back to Weaver, and she unleashed another rocket. Defender Lindsey Rzeszutko got a foot on it, saving a sure goal, but the ball went over the end line for a corner kick.
With just over a minute to play, New Trier pulled everyone up including goalie Charcut. Again, the Trevians were composed and refused to rush the play. All eyes were on Weaver as New Trier lined up for the corner.
McCaslin marked Weaver again. The New Trier forward hit a corner with the inside of her right foot. The corner curled heading far post. It was over Iori’s head and looked like it might sneak in without help from anyone for the game-tying goal.
Instead, the ball caromed off the crossbar. Both sides chased it down with the Saints kicking it out for a New Trier throw-in with under 30 seconds left.
The last play of regulation was a throw-in deep into the box. Again, everyone pressed up. Everyone in the entire stadium was on their feet. This was it.
The New Trier forward threw a long ball that made it deep into the box. A Trevian was first to the ball, but couldn’t get much power behind it. The ball headed towards the Saints net, but Iori hustled to snare it.
She fell on the ball and cradled it just as the announcer called out 10 seconds. Iori stood up with the ball in hand as the announcer counted the 10 seconds down: “10 – 9 – 8 – 7 –.”
The Saints bench was on the sideline waiting to run onto the field to celebrate. The coaching staff smiled and began to hug.
“6 – 5 – 4 – 3.”
The parents in the stands were on their feet, shouting, hugging, crying in disbelief that their players were about to achieve their ultimate goal. The former Saints players and coaches watching remembered when they were on the field celebrating a Saints state championship.
The horn sounded -- St. Charles East 2, New Trier 1 -- and the celebration began.
The Saints were the 2020 IHSA Class 3A state champions!
The IHSA officials asked both teams to line-up. The Trevians received their runner-up trophy. They finished the season 28-1-1 -- an incredible accomplishment.
The Saints were called up to receive their state championship trophy. Coach DiNuzzo and his staff sent up all eight seniors to receive the trophy: Jamie McDermott; Christina Hull; Alondra Carranza; Margaret Harper; Lauren Arvizu; Elle McCaslin; Kaitlin Gahagan; and Alex Lopez.
As the trophy was handed over to the Saints seniors, the announcer’s voice boomed “Congratulations to the St. Charles East Fighting Saints – 2020 State Champions.”
At about 10:30 p.m., an hour and a-half after the game ended, the Saints headed to bus for the ride home. The St. Charles Police and Fire Departments had been notified that the champions would arrive back at the city borders in approximately 30 minutes. The Saints parents and fans followed the bus as it made its way back to St. Charles.
As the Saints hit Kirk Road, police cars and fire trucks were waiting and immediately hit their sirens welcoming the new state champions home.
The bus pulled onto the East campus where Saints fans waited.
Grandparents, parents, boyfriends, friends, and fans all waited by the Sports Center. Young girls wore face paint and waited for a chance to celebrate with their heroes and dreamed of the day they too could win a state championship for the Saints.
The bus pulled in, the players stepped out, and the celebration started again. The Saints players had asked Coach DiNuzzo for a final favor on their way home and who was he to say no. Athletic director Mike Sommerfeld turned on the lights at Norris Stadium and the Saints marched in with the trophy held high.
The team thought about the journey that brought them here.
To the 2020 state champions : congratulations. It was truly “The Dream Season.”