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St. Charles East holds on against Wheaton Warrenville South

By Tomas Moran, Wheaton Warrenville South student journalist, 04/19/23, 7:15AM CDT



WHEATON -- The DuKane Conference clash between Wheaton Warrenville South and St. Charles East was defensive, gritty and hard-fought. In the end, Grace Williams’ shot to the left-hand corner of the goal secured a 1-0 win for the visiting Fighting Saints.

St. Charles East (12-0-0, 3-0-0), who are ranked fourth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, kept the pressure on their host. Midfielder Kara Machala, who hit the post on a free kick in the second half, was the most dangerous player on the pitch, wreaking havoc down the right wing.

With 17 minutes left in the first half, the Saints received a left-side corner kick.

The service entered the box and Wheaton Warrenville South defenders had multiple chances to clear it. However, St. Charles East prevented the Tigers’ efforts. Mackenzie Loomis passed it to the center of the box to Williams, who managed to slot the ball just out of the reach of goalkeeper Marilyn Dixon reach.

“It started with all of us just attacking the ball,” said Williams. “We had so many chances at the edge of the box, with throw-ins and corner kicks. I think it all stemmed from us being hungry and wanting the ball.”

Both teams had few chances in the opening phases of the game as they settled into a midfield battle, which was crucial to dictating the pace of play. St. Charles East was more dynamic on offense, while Wheaton Warrenville South established quality build-up play in the middle of the pitch.

“I think we worked together collectively to combine passes and try to get to the attacking third of the field to create those opportunities,” noted Wheaton Warrenville South senior Kate Gronlund.

The Tiger's defense was stable throughout the contest, other than the events that led to the goal.

Overall, the defense for Wheaton Warrenville South (2-5-1, 0-2-0) remained sound versus a Saints side that kept attacking, whether it was via long passes down the wings, dribbling through the middle or set pieces.

“We had to adjust, because a lot of the teams we see play a super high line. This time they dropped back," noted Williams of Wheaton Warrenville South. "So, it was really hard to recognize when to pass the ball and when to dribble.”

“They have some kids that are really strong back there," noted St. Charles East head coach Vince DiNuzzo. "(They were) technical; they were physical. But I think some of the self-inflicted stuff made it so competitive tonight.”

“I definitely think we did really well defensively," stated Wheaton Warrenville South defender Berkley Dylla. "I think that we supported well and the midfield did a good job too. … I think that we did what we could, and it was just pretty unlucky that we didn’t get there."

St. Charles East earned its eighth shutout of the season and fifth in a row thanks to three saves from Sidney Lazenby. The Fighting Saints defense, which has not been scored on in conference, was organized and formed what seemed to be an impassable perimeter around the box.

“Just communicating a lot, especially in the back," remarked St. Charles East senior forward Ella Stehman. "I know that some of the girls are injured right now and just giving all that we have."

“I think it was our ability to provide cover," said DiNuzzo. "I think they had a bunch of pace up-top, a lot of fast kids, and we always needed to be aware of where they were and make sure there was no breakaway scenario.”

While Wheaton Warrenville South’s offense enjoyed moments of individual brilliance in possession, these isolated plays did not result in a mark on the scoreboard. 

“I think passing quicker and movement was just what we needed to do," remarked Dylla. "I think it was really just the finishing. Honestly, I felt like we did really well with our combinations of play."

“That last pass, that last run," noted Wheaton Warrenville South head coach Guy Callipari. "Sometimes we were playing balls in without intent. We just have to have more awareness of the spaces we’re trying to run into.”

The race for the top of the DuKane Conference is on and every game is essential for St. Charles East's title aspirations.

Currently St. Charles North (7-2-1, 4-0-0) occupies the peak of the standings with 12 points, however the Saints are right behind them at nine points with a game in hand. 

“For us right now, I think it’s focusing on trying to get the first seed for the DuKane Conference," stated Stehman. "Just proving to the other teams and to ourselves that we deserve to be first seed.”

Wheaton Warrenville South demonstrated their ability to compete with any opponent. Having faced an incredibly difficult schedule as of late, the Tigers are mired in a five-game losing streak to ranked opponents (St. Charles North, Hinsdale Central, defending champion Metea Valley and third place finisher Lincoln-Way Central. The trial by fire is forging the team’s mettle for the rest of the season.

They made sure that St. Charles East had to earn every inch of its victory and held them to only their second one-goal win of the season.

“They’re obviously a very good side, they’re gonna win some games in the DuKane (Conference)," said DiNuzzo of Wheaton Warrenville South. "Coming here is never easy and today was a testament to that. It’s always a grind.”

Wheaton Warrenville South is looking for a breakout game.

“It’s always just challenging playing against another really tough opponent, and we’re playing tough teams the whole way through our season," said Gronlund. "So, it’s just finding out how those teams play and trying to deal with those difficulties.”

“I think, playing with confidence," said Callipari. "Understanding that you put a foot forward and now we just gotta take the next step. … For us, I think it’s realizing our identity as a team, playing to our strengths, not putting ourselves under a little bit and playing with more confidence.”

Wheaton Warrenville South continues its run against tough conference foes at Batavia (5-2-1, 1-1-0) on Thursday. Then the Tigers take a trip to Iowa for a weekend tournament.

St. Charles East is a top threat for the title at the Naperville Invitational. It plays pool games against Neuqua Valley (2-4-0), which surprised St. Charles North 2-1 April 15, on Friday and Sandburg on Saturday. Both games are at Naperville North.

Starting lineups

St. Charles East
GK: Sidney Lazenby
D: Lauren Silvestri
D: Grace Williams
D: Mackenzie Loomis
D: Amanda Stepien
M: Georggia Desario
M: Alli Saviano
M: Kara Machala
M: Tia Bernstein
F: Mia Raschke
F: Ella Stehman

Wheaton Warrenville South
GK: Marilyn Dixon
D: Brooke Ittersagen
D: Ella Byrnes
D: Lily Petrie
D: Camryn Fleming
M: Kate Gronlund
M: Lauren Barnett
M: Carolyn Harvey
F: Ashlyn Adams
F: Kate Hartnett
F: Lauren Barnett

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Kara Machala, sr., MF, St. Charles East

Scoring summary

First half
St. Charles East: Grace Williams (Mackenzie Loomis), 23rd minute

Second half
No scoring