ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East started the most challenging part of its regular-season schedule with a 2-0-win Tuesday over DuKane Conference rival Geneva.
The victory which upped the Saints’ record to 15-0-0 and moved them into a first place tie with St. Charles North, was the first of potentially five high-stakes matches in an eight-day period.
St. Charles East, ranked second in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, returns to action Thursday in a Naperville Invitational quarterfinal match against fourth-ranked Fremd that the Saints hope is the first of three steps to the tournament championship. The tournament semis are Friday, and the championship is Saturday. St. Charles East beat Fremd 3-1 in the teams’ season-opener March 14.
On May 2, the Saints square off against the cross-town archrival and 12th-ranked St. Charles North in the opening match of Tri-Cities Night in Batavia. In addition to claiming St. Charles soccer bragging rights with a win, the Saints could take sole possession of first place.
Both teams have 4-0-0 conference records. Thirteenth-ranked Geneva (10-4-0, 1-2-0) plays Batavia in the nightcap.
“We have our hands full tonight and a tough rest of the week ahead of us,” St. Charles East coach Vince DiNuzzo said. “This game wasn’t easy, and it’s going to continue to be challenging. We’ve got to recover and get ready for Thursday.”
After ekeing out two goals in the first half, the Saints concentrated on defense for the last 40 minutes.
“They changed shape in the second half, so we changed our shape to counter it. We knew we really didn’t need a goal,” said DiNuzzo. “We played a little more defense in that second half by choice. I thought our girls did a good job of limiting their chances.”
St. Charles East just missed getting on the scoreboard early. At the 37:51 mark, Mia Raschke’s close-in shot bounced off the left post.
Alli Saviano sixth goal of the season, on a shot from just outside of the penalty box, put the Saints in front in the 22nd minute.
“Grace (Williams) got the ball. We caught them quick on a transition, and she crossed the ball in toward me,” Saviano said. “I was wide open, and I was able to tap it in.”
Saviano had a foot in the teams’ second goal four minutes later. Kara Machala took her cross and found the back of the net on another close-in score.
“Alli was going down the line. Every time you go down that line, there’s always going to be somebody that’s open at the top,” said Machala “I was waiting there, and I just had a simple pass to the middle and the goal.” It was the Northern Illinois commit’s seventh tally of the year.
Saviano was named the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match for her contributions on offense.
“Her ability to beat defenders today was great, she kept them honest. She’s able to create space for herself and others,” DiNuzzo said. “She finished the first goal which gave us some breathing room and settled us into the game. I just thought she was excellent on the ball today.”
Containing Geneva’s speedy Rilee Hasegawa was another key to the Saints’ win. Junior defender Mackenzie Loomis was tasked with that assignment.
“We knew she was probably the best player on the field for Geneva. We looked at some film, and we knew she had the quick footwork,” Loomis said. “Our plan was for me to man mark her. When I didn’t mark her, we had Lauren (Silvestri) cover. We did move to three center backs in the second half.”
Hasegawa did break free and took several shots on goal that Saints keeper Sidney Lazenby (eight saves) stopped.
“Rilee’s a great player. She has the ability to turn and has the ability to go to wherever she wants to find the ball. It doesn’t matter if you’ve man-marked her, she’s going to find a way to get on the ball, and she did so today,” DiNuzzo said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping her farther away from the goal in a less dangerous area and limited her scoring opportunities.”
The coach said the Saints were not happy with their performance in their previous match, the group-clinching shootout win over Sandburg in the Naperville Invitational on April 22.
“I thought in the first half we came out with a lot of energy and kind of a chip on our shoulder after playing pretty poorly on Saturday. The girls wanted to get back into the right frame of mind,” DiNuzzo said. “We were able to execute in the first half and get a two-goal lead which was important. Being able to keep them off the score sheet, it says a lot about our backline and our goalkeeper. Our center mids played a lot better than they did on Saturday.”
Loomis said the team concentrated on two skills.
“We had a really tough time connecting passes last game so that’s definitely something we wanted to focus on in this game and just overall communication,” she said.
Geneva coach Megan Owens said her team played much better in the second half.
“I think it was a tale of two halves. I think we outshot them and outplayed them in the second half. They weren’t really on our half of the field (in the second half), but unfortunately, we dug ourselves in a little bit of a hole in the first half,” the Vikings coach said. “We had two mistakes that they pounced on, and I give them props for that.
“We came out a little unfocused and they took advantage of that,” Owen continued. “We need to get to the point where we don’t make those mental errors Second half was great, that’s how we can play.”
Geneva switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the last 40 minutes.
“I think it worked better for us with our personnel,” Owens said.
The Saints responded with their own change.
“We went to a 3-5-2 to counter their 4-4-2 to make sure that we had cover for Riley,” DiNuzzo said. “We felt with a two-goal lead, we needed to risk it in the back. We were able to limit their chances in the second half.”
DiNuzzo highlighted the play of senior midfielder Tia Bernstein.
“Tia played very well. She is someone who won a lot of aerial battles,” he said. “She defended well. She was able to keep her person in front of her.”
Owens had to juggle her lineup due to injuries.
“We had some new kids playing some new positions, which happens when you pick up injuries. I had we had to move some starters around,” the Viking coach said. “Morgan Rudowizc, a forward played center back, and I had Leyna (Yonehara), a previous center back, playing in the midfield.”
GK: Jordan Forbes
D: Luci Okolitax
D: Isabella Walls
D: Lilly Coats
D: Morgan Rudowicz
M: Leyna Yonehara
M: Cami Bishop
M: Evyn Schokora
F: Olivia Rawls
F: Audrey Stredde
F: Rilee Hasagawa
St. Charles East
GK: Sidney Lazenby
D: Lauren Silvestri
D: Makenzie Loomis
D: Amanda Stepien
D: Georggia Desario
M: Alli Saviano
M: Kara Machala
M: Tia Bernstein
F: Grace Williams
F: Ella Stehman
F: Mia Raschke
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Alli Saviano, jr., MF, St. Charles East
SCE: Alli Saviano (Williams), 22nd minute
SCE: Kara Machala (Saviano) 26th minute