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Game story: St. Charles East offense gets in high gear vs. Sycamore

By Mike Sandrolini, 09/08/23, 7:00PM CDT


Fighting Saints roll to 7-1 win vs. Class AA foe

ST. CHARLES—St. Charles East produced its highest scoring output of the season in a 7-1 rout of visiting Sycamore in a nonconference match Thursday night, while the defense maintained its stingy pace.

The Fighting Saints, now 6-1-0 and ranked 12th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, have surrendered just four goals so far this season, and two of them came in one contest -- a tough 2-1 loss to cross-town rival St. Charles North in the championship game of the St. Charles Invitational on Sept. 2.

“I think we’re strong in the back,” said senior goalkeeper Jordan Rolon, who entered Thursday with a stingy 0.522 goals-against average. “Our back four, we know how to keep the ball, how to clear the ball and obviously we’re good out of the air. We know how to get back on defense.”

Anchoring St. Charles East’s defensive unit are seniors Griffin Counts, Brandon Garland, Garrett Melton and Jake Walker, and freshman Michael Greszenko.

“They’ve been able to build some chemistry over the past six months starting in the offseason and in the summer so they are able to know each other’s movements,” said St. Charles East coach Vince DiNuzzo. “I think they have a trust for one another. We have a lot of leadership and seniors on that backline with the freshman kind of blended in. I just think it’s a wealth of technical ability and athleticism.”

Sycamore (3-6-1), a Class 2A school, had just two shots on goal during the evening. Coach Kevin Bickley knew his club would have its hands full facing a formidable Class 3A opponent like the Fighting Saints.

“Obviously, they’re a very good team and we know that,” Bickley said. “We try to motivate the guys coming in, and it’s a challenge. Our conference (the Interstate Eight) probably isn’t the strongest, and we got to end up finding some stronger opponents. 

“The (Sycamore) girls (team) has been playing in the tournament here, and he (DiNuzzo) brought up that, ‘Hey, maybe the boys should come out here.’ We’re always up for a challenge going into it. We just try to have the motivation and get better and push these guys.”

St. Charles East senior forward Omar Ontiveros, the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match, put the Fighting Saints on the board five minutes into the match after taking a cross from Ryan Groselak and tapping it in.

“Our mindset going into the game was we just didn’t want to take them (Sycamore) easy. We knew anything can happen, but we kind of knew what was going to happen,” said Ontiveros, who added a 30-yard blast in the 47th minute during the second half to give the Fighting Saints a 4-1 cushion. He also had an assist on senior Giuseppe Avendano’s goal in the 55th minute that extended the lead to 5-1.

Groselak added a goal one minute later, and senior Robert Kutrovatz concluded the scoring for St. Charles East with a goal in the 75th minute.

“Every time we step on the field, we know we kind of have a target on our back,” DiNuzzo said. “They’re a small school, but we know they have quality players and a coach that gives them a structure, gets them organized. We knew it wasn’t going to be handed to us. Playing to our level was something that we were stressing before the game.

“We were able to get a lot of kids some minutes, and the kids were scoring. We had a few really, really good goals today and (were) able to put some shots on frame and able to test their keeper. But everybody contributed, and it was good to see.”

Sycamore junior goalkeeper Jesse Munoz made several nice saves during the first half, stopping junior midfielder Sanit Porcayo on a point-blank header in the seventh minute, and then denying Melton on a header off a corner kick in the 15th minute.

“What I’m trying to do is lead our team to victory and just try to have better games, and hopefully we have a better season,” Munoz said. “I try to get them in their position, try to get them where they’re supposed to be (on the field defensively).”

St. Charles East capitalized on a penalty kick in the 26th minute from senior midfielder Aiden Maloney for a 2-0 lead. In the 37th minute, junior forward Kevin Sanchez came up with a steal deep in the Sycamore zone and put it in the upper left-hand corner of the net for a 3-0 Fighting Saints lead.

The visitors avoided the shutout in the 38th minute when sophomore midfielder Aiden Sears scored on a free kick to set the score at 3-1 at halftime.

“I thought the first half we hung in there,” Bickley said. “We knew that probably Vince wasn’t too happy at halftime (with his team). So, we knew they were going to come out with a little bit (of an edge in the second half). 

“Quite honestly, probably watching the (game) tape, there was probably four or five highlight goals that not too many goalkeepers are going to make the saves. But when you play a team like that, they really expose our weaknesses and we just don’t have the numbers and the talent that they do. It’s nice to see teams like that, and know those are the better teams and hopefully we can learn from that and get better.”

St. Charles East takes on a tough Dundee-Crown squad at 3 p.m. Saturday at Streamwood High School in the opening round of the Streamwood Fall Classic tournament. Like the Fighting Saints, Dundee-Crown is off to a fast start with a 7-1-0 record. They suffered their first loss of the season Crystal Lake South on Sept. 5. St. Charles East finishes its pool games against Crystal Lake South on Tuesday and Leyden on Saturday.

“I think each game we’re getting better and getting better at moving the ball and obviously in the final third, getting better and scoring more goals,” Rolon said. “We’ve been talking about that since the beginning of the season, just trying to score goals in the final third.”

The Fighting Saints previous high for goals scored this season came in their 3-0 home win against Bartlett in the season debut Aug. 22.

Sycamore heads to the opening round of the Body Armor event for a match with St. Ignatius at  11:15 a.m. Saturday at Olympic Park in Schaumburg. The Spartans conclude pool play at 6:45 Monday night at Metea Valley, another Class 3A squad.

“I don’t know how we drew that,” Bickley said of the match against the Class 3A Mustangs. “They try to match us up, but that doesn’t seem like a very even matchup, looking at the teams that are in the tournament.

“It is what it is, and it will be another challenge for us. We have to play the teams that are on our schedule, and hopefully, we can get healthy, too. We’re kind of banged up with a few sicknesses and concussions and things like that. Hopefully we can get healthy and get some starters back and our numbers up so that we can work on some things.”

Starting lineups

GK – Jesse Munoz
D – Joey Rosenow
D – Chandler Gatbunton
D – Henry Bumpus
MF – Noah Daykin
MF – Gavin Crouch
MF – Ethan Royer
MF – Rolando Ocelotl
MF – Aiden Sears
F – Tyler Lojko
F – Carson Matthews

St. Charles East 
GK – Jordan Rolon
D – Brandon Garland
D – Griffin Counts
D – Jake Walker
D – Michael Greszenko
D – Garrett Melton
MF – Aiden Maloney
MF – Giuseppe Avendano
F – Connor Sychowski
F – Omar Ontiveros
F – Ryan Groselak

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: 
Omar Ontiveros, sr., F, St. Charles East

Scoring summary

First half
St. Charles East – Omar Ontiveros (Ryan Groselak), 5:39
St. Charles East – Aiden Maloney (Unassisted), 26:39
St. Charles East – Kevin Sanchez (Robert Kutrovatz), 37:39
Sycamore – Aiden Sears (Unassisted), 28:39

Second half
St. Charles East – Omar Ontiveros (Griffin Counts), 47:39
St. Charles East – Giuseppe Avendano (Omar Ontiveros), 55:39
St. Charles East – Ryan Groselak (Giuseppe Avendano), 56:39
St. Charles East – Robert Kutrovatz (Brandon Pinto), 75:39