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Game story: Keepers prevail in scoreless regulation, St. Charles East tops Loyola in penalties

By Curt Herron, 04/21/24, 1:15PM CDT


Fighting Saints take shootout 3-1 in 4 rounds

BARRINGTON -- Two strong defensive teams with quality goalkeeping met to open play Group F play in the Naperville Invitational on Thursday at Barrington High School. Factor in a cold and wet evening and it wouldn't have been a surprise if the match between St. Charles East and Loyola Academy didn't feature all that many good scoring chances.

However, the offenses of both the Fighting Saints and Ramblers came through with plenty of quality scoring opportunities, especially during the final half. The defenses and goalies rose to the occasion. Not a goal was scored in regulation, which resulted in a shootout to determine a winner.

In the subsequent penalty session, 17th-ranked St. Charles East converted on three of four attempts to prevail 3-1 in four rounds and improve to 10-0-1 in its last 11 matches. 

It was the winner's 11th shutout and third in a row. The Fighting Saints (13-1-2) added to that total of clean-sheets Friday with a 2-0 victory over Downers Grove North in Geneva to win the group. Loyola (7-7-2) claimed a 3-0 victory over Downers Grove North on Saturday.

Loyola, the group runnerup. completes the tournament in the consolation pool against Geneva at 5 p.m. Thursday in Barrington, and hosts no. 19 Fremd at 5 p.m. Friday. St. Charles East travels to fifth-ranked Naperville North for a 7 p.m. quarterfinal Thursday.

In the shootout, Sophia Wollenberg fired in the first try to give St. Charles East the early edge after Loyola’s Claire Brady bounced one off the post. Things evened in round two when the Ramblers junior goalie Chloe Zipprich dove to halt an attempt from Tatum Smith. Then teammate Ellie Vehovsky connected to make it 1-1. 

Fighting Saints goalkeeper Sidney Lazenby made a diving deflection on an attempt by Maria Nikas in the third round of PKs to hold a 2-1 advantage. Next, Georggia Desario placed an attempt inside the left post to make it 3-1. Then, a charging Lazenby sealed the win when she forced Emily Plovanich to go a bit high.

Lazenby and Zipprich came up with big stops throughout the match and shared the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for their efforts.

While coach Vince DiNuzzo's Fighting Saints entered the tournament on a season-long roll, coach Shannon Hartinger had Loyola performing at its best with a 4-2-1 recent streak entering the match. For the season, all of the Ramblers defeats have come against teams that are or were ranked.

Lazenby knows she can rely on the St. Charles East backline.

"I have a great defense, and I trust all of them," Lazenby said. "It just makes my job so much easier. If I didn't have the defense that I have, I probably would be getting 20 more shots than I get now. They really help me out.

"It feels great to win PKs. We've won two PK shootouts now, and it's just an amazing feeling. The team is playing amazing. We definitely struggled a little bit in the beginning of the year, because we have so many underclassmen. But after we got over that hump of just trying to be a team, then we really became a team and now the play just comes much easier."

Both Lazenby and Zipprich both came up with multiple big saves in a back-and-forth final half. But there were other opportunities for dangerous tries that their defenses took away.

"I feel like this game was so evenly-matched," Zipprich said. "We worked so hard, and the other team was quality. We had a lot of chances, and PKs can go either way. They had a lot of through-balls that me and my defenders read well. I like our grit."

The St. Charles East backline includes all-stater Mackenzie Loomis, Abbey Petrick, Averie Foulkes, Pressley Kannaka and Reese Kyle. Loyola relied on defenders Mia Wisler, Nikas, Brady and Vehovsky.

Both sides pleased with their shutout performances.

"I just love how resilient we are," Petrick said. "When we got stuck having corner after corner after corner, we didn't give up and let them score. And the same thing in the PKs, with Sid saving them and us bouncing back from Tatum missing. 

"I think that we're just really resilient, especially after our centerback Mackenzie Loomis got hurt. We didn't let that faze us. I just like how we trust each other so much. I trust Sid in the back, and I trust my midfield. We just have so much trust with each other that it allows us to play to the best of our abilities at our own positions knowing that we have cover behind us."

Some of Loyola’s best scoring-chances in the initial part of the final half were provided by Lily Berhalter, Plovanich and Molly Briody. St. Charles East received good threats from Wollenberg, Smith and Saviano.

"We had a slow start, but as a team we've bonded together on and off the field, and I think that really shows," Briody said. 

"I like our intensity. We've been working a lot on intensity during the game and keeping that up through the whole game. I think that's been the difference for us."

Shortly after the hour mark, Desario and Berhalter both sent in suggestive attempts that didn’t pan out. A bit later, Loyola strung together three corner kicks within a two-minute span. Vehovsky sent in quality efforts that allowed Lilianna Ciesla, Berhalter, Nikas, Macy Schultz and Mim Fritzsche with good chances that were all thwarted by Lazenby.

"I think that our success is because we think of bonding before our team," St. Charles East's Payton Revard said. "We're friends, we're not just teammates. 

"We bond for our practices. We don't take anything so serious until we need to, and I like how we defend first before we attack. We all stay as one." 

The Fighting Saints produced a couple of late threats. Saviano created a corner, and then Wollenberg got one last good opportunity when she got free near the goal. But Zipprich zipped out to stymie the attempt.

There was far less drama in an opening half that began in rainy conditions and ended with little more than some mist. In the final part of that half, Wollenberg was denied on two good attempts from close-range by Zipprich. On the other end, Vehovsky was turned away by Lazenby on a pair of threatening tries, with the best of those coming shortly before the intermission.

"The team has really come together on and off the field due to the phenomenal senior leadership that we have," Hartinger said. "I think you see the off the field work translating into on the field results. For me, results are important, but I think sometimes performances are even more important. Tonight was a good performance all around. 

"One of the most important numbers for us is the zero on the board for St. Charles East. To me, it says that as a team that we defended well for 80 minutes. Obviously, we would have loved to snuck a goal in, but it was just a great high school battle tonight.

"I think if we continue to learn from adversity and learn from the moments where maybe we didn't have the success that we wanted. A lot of credit goes to our senior leaders. But we've also seen leaders pop up from our junior crew and our sophomores. Everyone is kind of taking a different role. We're a lucky group, because they all want to work toward the same common goal, and I appreciate that as a coach."

Starting lineups

St. Charles East
GK: Sidney Lazenby
D: Pressley Kannaka
D: Mackenzie Loomis
D: Abbey Petrick
D: Averie Foulkes
MF: Georggia Desario
MF: Alli Saviano
MF: Payton Rivard
MF: Tatum Smith
F: Sophia Wollenberg
F: Lilli Margewich
GK: Chloe Zipprich
D: Maria Nikas
D: Mia Wisler
D: Ellie Vehovsky
D: Claire Brady
MF: Mim Fritzsche
MF: Grace Lynch
MF: Izzy Garcia
F: Lilianna Ciesla
F: Lily Berhalter
F: Emily Plovanich

Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Sidney Lazenby, jr., GK, St. Charles East; 
Chloe Zipprich, jr., GK, Loyola

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring

Second half
No scoring

Penalty kicks
St. Charles East: Wollenberg, goal; Smith, save; Saviano, goal; Desario, goal
Loyola Academy: Brady, off post; Vehovsky, goal; Nikas, save; Plovanich, high