ELMHURST – Since heading into halftime of its regional semifinal match tied with Wheaton North, the St. Charles East boys soccer team has outscored postseason foes by a 13-1 margin.
East’s postseason domination tour continued Tuesday as the Saints cruised past Streamwood, 4-0, in an IHSA Class 3A York Sectional semifinal.
“It’s pretty cool,” East senior Kevin Kurtz said. “We just try to play our game. If that means putting in five, six goals, then that’s what we have to do. Better safe than sorry.”
East advances to face another conference foe, Larkin, in Friday’s sectional final.
Saints coach Paul Jennison’s postgame assessment that East was nowhere near its sharpest, yet controlled the match against a formidable opponent illustrates why East is quickly emerging as a state title contender.
“I’ll be honest, I think they were the best team we’ve faced in the last five, six weeks,” Jennison said of Streamwood, the only team to hand East an Upstate Eight Conference River loss during the regular season. “I thought they were very good on the ball, they possessed it nicely. Fortunately for us, we’re also a much better team than we were at the beginning of the season. I think we’re in our rhythm right now.”
The Saints led, 2-0, at halftime thanks to an early score from junior Eric Dietrich and another goal from leading scorer T.C. Hull. Hull deftly converted from a sharp angle after Sabres goalkeeper Phil Lewy came out to challenge him, a crowd-pleaser that Jennison called “T.C. being T.C.”
Kurtz scored on a rebound of his own shot to make it 3-0 Saints with 23:11 to play in the second half and sophomore Zach Manibog capped the scoring with another rebound score after junior Daniel DiLeonardi’s original strike.
Coach Matt Polovin’s Sabres beat East, 1-0, early in the regular season. He said the Sabres (13-8) had a difficult assignment trying to defeat the top-seeded Saints (19-2-1) again.
“They’re confident. They’ve got to be on cloud nine right now,” Polovin said of East. “I know a lot of those kids from coaching the club a lot of them play for, and they’re an excellent group of kids. They work their butts off, they attack, they finish, they have great defense. [Defender] Mike Macek ... is just phenomenal. That kid is a beast back there.”
East’s defense as a whole continued to look sharp, though junior goalkeeper Chris Lucatorto had to make a couple quality saves in the second half.
“We’re doing very well defensively,” East midfielder Elliot Welter said. “We have a very attentive back that will adjust very quickly to different offenses that we run into. We’re lucky to have them. They always do a very good job.”
East starting defender Jake Sterling went down with an apparent leg injury with 16:15 left in the second half and was helped off the field but Jennison said he expects Sterling to be available on Friday.
Jennison is sporting a postseason beard that is apparently making him almost as uncomfortable as the Saints are making their opponents.
“It’s definitely itching a little bit now,” Jennison said. “It’s not something that I enjoy keeping. I don’t have many superstitions but this seems to be one of them that’s stuck with me, and I don’t want to tempt fate in any bad way.”