Tuesday night's Tri-City Challenge underscored an unusual level of struggles on the Tri-Cities soccer scene this season.
This year's doubleheader – pitting Geneva against St. Charles East and Batavia against St. Charles North – showcased three teams with losing records, all but the surging Saints (11-2-1). By night's end, Batavia and Geneva still stood at only two wins apiece.
Coach Eric Willson's North Stars (6-7-2) aren't in quite as sorry shape, but Willson still had a hard time recalling a year that's been this difficult for an area that is usually a soccer hot spot.
"I don't think there has been [a year like this]" Willson said. "I don't have the stats or records in front of me but I don't think it's been like that. East is having a great year, but I think one thing you can count on when these teams are playing is that guys are going to be battling and guys are going to fight hard and, for the most part, you're going to get some pretty close games.
"So it's a fun night to be a part of. It's always good to see these teams getting after each other. I think we feel pretty lucky to be part of a night like this."
Although his team was fresh off a 4-0 loss to East, Vikings coach Ryan Estabrook still thinks his team is capable of a respectable finish.
"We've played some very good teams close," Estabrook said. "We played Hinsdale (Central) very close last week. We know we can play some very good teams, it's just a matter of being consistent."
Thrown into the fire
Geneva freshman goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull had a difficult debut assignments in contending with the Saints, who spent much of the match buzzing around their offensive end.
Turnbull was filling in for usual starter Joe Mozden, a junior who suffered a concussion during a recent match against Wheaton Academy.
"I think he did admirably," Estabrook said of Turnbull. "He was under a lot of pressure. You don't want to see a kid like that get rocked in his first high school start but I think it was a good experience for him, and I think it's going to be [helpful] going forward as well."
Estabrook said he expected Mozden, who took an inadvertent elbow while defending a corner kick, to be available for a return by the end of this week.
Plenty of time to party
East enjoyed a light workload this week. After Tuesday's win against Geneva, the Saints had no more games scheduled, allowing ample time to partake in the school's homecoming week festivities.
"I told the boys, listen, I'm asking for 80 minutes this week," East coach Paul Jennison said. "I'm not asking for anything over the top, nothing too serious. I'm looking for 80 minutes – take care of business, and then you can go and enjoy yourselves. It makes it a lot more worthwhile when you've put in the hard work, and then you get the reward after it."
Next week's pace offers a sharp contrast. The Saints are scheduled to play four matches, starting with Monday's home tilt against Plainfield North and concluding with a crosstown showdown against visiting St. Charles North on Oct. 6.
IN THE GROOVE
Conor Morton, Marmion, Fr., F
What he did: Morton scored three goals against Belvidere at last week's St. Charles Invitational and also tallied in Tuesday's Suburban Christian Conference win against St. Edward.
St. Charles East's defense
What it did: The Saints had Geneva on lock-down throughout Tuesday's 4-0 Upstate Eight Conference River win against the Vikings, with senior Ben Womac, junior Jake Sterling and sophomore Brandon Villanueva among those keeping Geneva's scoring threats in check.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
St. Charles East will be the top seed in the 18-team IHSA Class 3A York Sectional.
St. Charles North (8) is part of the same sectional, while Batavia and Geneva are both included in the 18-team West Chicago Sectional, where Geneva is seeded 16th and Batavia 17th.
Kaneland, meanwhile, is the top seed in the five-team 2A Burlington Central Regional.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How Suburban Christian Conference rivals St. Francis and Wheaton Academy fare when the teams meet in what should be a quality matchup on Wednesday night in West Chicago.
COACH SLY SAYS
Sure, things have been looking bleak for Batavia and Geneva, but Sly refuses to believe these teams are going to go out with a whimper.
Not predicting anything too crazy here, but look for at least one if not both of these teams to muster some kind of winning streak before the season is through.
Otherwise, we're looking at the high school soccer equivalent of the 100-loss season the Cubs are flirting with, and Sly refuses to believe that's going to be the case.