Saints one win from conference title Tuesday’s thrilling win against fellow Upstate EIght Conference River contender Larkin was crucial for St. Charles East.
But the Saints still need to defeat rival St. Charles North at 6 p.m. Saturday at East if the Saints are going to emerge with the outright UEC River title.
East (4-1 UEC River) sits alone in first after knocking off Larkin, 3-1, handing the Royals (4-1-1 UEC RIver) their lone conference loss. The North game marks East’s conference finale, and between the high stakes and the crosstown opponent, emotions will be high.
Saints coach Paul Jennison thinks his players will handle those emotions constructively.
“Our boys have good heads on their shoulders,” Jennison said. “They’ve been playing well [all] season. They don’t take each other too seriously, they all just go out and play well together.”
East stumbled early in the conference season against Streamwood but has caught fire since. The Saints scored twice in the final five minutes on Tuesday to separate from host Larkin.
“They’ve been doing everything I and the coaching staff have asked them to do,” Jennison said of his team. “I’ve been very proud of them so far. We keep telling them it’s a long season and the journey is just as much important as the destination.”
While North (7-7, 2-3 UEC River) hasn’t had anywhere near the season turned in by East – which is the top seed in the 3A York Sectional – the North Stars have played better lately in wins against Batavia and Streamwood.
North coach Eric Willson said the North Stars aren’t worried about East’s bid for the conference title on Saturday.
“Our main focus is really our style of play and getting us as a team to play as good as we possibly can,” Willson said. “If that means we have an opportunity to beat one of, if not the best, teams in the conference this year ... and if we can beat them Saturday night, that’s fantastic, but our main focus is preparing ourselves for playoff time.”
East and North could meet again in an even bigger contest. If the seeds hold in the regional semifinals, the top-seeded Saints and eighth-seeded North Stars would meet Oct. 20 in the Wheaton North Regional final.
Cadets ready for conference showdowns
Marmion’s unbeaten run through the Suburban Christian Conference is about to meet high-level resistance.
The Cadets are set to take on their chief competition for the SCC title on Saturday at St. Francis and Wednesday versus Wheaton Academy.
All three teams were unbeaten in conference play until Wheaton Academy blanked St. Francis, 3-0, on Wednesday.
Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said he likes how his surging Cadets match up against St. Francis, and called Wheaton Academy “very similar to us.”
“I think our team is almost to that point where we’re right there in our prime of the season, and I don’t think we’ve hit it yet,” Del Toro said. “Hopefully we can hit it here close to the postseason.”
And, ideally, in time to win a conference title.
Geneva calls audible on game time
Geneva drew rival Batavia for its first-round 3A Naperville Central Regional play-in game.
The game date was originally listed on the IHSA’s website as Oct. 12 but the Vikings – the host team for the game – had a conflict, as Geneva has a home football game against Metea Valley scheduled for that Friday.
Instead, the teams will play at 11 a.m. Oct. 13, with the winner advancing to the regional semifinal against host and top-seeded Naperville Central on Oct. 17.
– Jay Schwab firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE GROOVE
T.C. Hull, St. Charles East, Jr., FWhat he did: Hull scored a pair of goals, including a highlight reel, go-ahead score with about four minutes to play, in Tuesday’s 3-1 Upstate Eight Conference River win against Larkin.
Wheaton Academy defenseWhat it did: Playing a crucial Suburban Christian Conference match on Wednesday against St. Francis, the Warriors clamped down for a 3-0 victory. The result left Wheaton Academy and Marmion as the lone remaining unbeaten teams in conference play.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Sometimes injuries aren’t as bad as they look. Kaneland standout Anthony Parillo gave his teammates and his dad – Knights coach Scott Parillo – a scare when he left Tuesday’s match against Morris with an apparent wrist injury, but Scott Parillo indicated Thursday that the team’s leading scorer “will be fine” and is not expected to miss additional time.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How the various conference races will play out. Around the Tri-Cities, the marquee matchup comes Saturday night when host St. Charles East has the chance to win the Upstate EIght Conference River title outright if it can defeat rival St. Charles North.
COACH SLY SAYS If I’m the Fighting Saints, I’m not exactly thrilled about potentially having to deal with the North Stars twice in less than two weeks.
All the pressure is on East on Saturday with the Saints in position to close out the conference championship, and it would be the same scenario if the teams meet again in regionals later this month.
Now East has proven to have the stronger side this season, but in a one-game scenario, against a North program that knows how to play hard-nosed soccer this time of year, East would have to dig deep to prevail in two emotional meetings, if that comes to pass.