ELMHURST – St. Charles East boys soccer coach Paul Jennison can pick out the point in the season that his team’s play changed for the better.
After a 5-0 start to the year, the Saints dropped two matches in a row in what Jennison called a serious reality check.
Since then, East has been an unstoppable freight train, demoralizing opponents with a lethal combination of fast touches and sharp passing that leave the opposition little room for error.
Larkin found out all about East’s play-making skills as the Saints’ blistered the Royals, 8-1, to claim the IHSA 3A York Sectional title – East’s first sectional title since 2001.
“After our two losses against Streamwood and Lyons, we walked away and I told these boys ‘You’re not as good as you think you are,’ and they said, ‘No we’re not,’’ ’ Jennison said. “The problem was that we started the season 5-0 and thought we were something special. Since those losses, we’ve worked hard and have been flying ever since.”
Flying might be an understatement for a Saints’ (20-2-1) squad that has outscored its playoff opponents, 22-3. Friday night’s thrashing came against a Larkin team that East is familiar with having beat earlier in the year, 3-1.
“It helps that we have a lot of film on these guys so we can see who their go-to guys are and how we can counteract their play,” East senior Michael Macek said. “They are a really good opponent, so it was good to have some film on them. It takes us a couple minutes to see what they are going to do and we adjust accordingly. We did that again tonight.”
It took the Saints about ten minutes to figure things out in the first half before the shots started peppering Larkin (15-6-4) goalkeeper Aldair Dominquez from all angles.
The onslaught finally produced a result with 19:04 left in the half as T.C. Hull scored the first of what would turn out to be a momentous night for the junior.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of goals lately and it seems like once we get the first one, we don’t really stop,” Hull said. “Getting the first one is huge and they get down and we keep going. They kept possession in our half for the first half of the first half. Once we start putting the ball in the middle we put our players in position to score goals.”
Hull guided in a direct-kick from just outside the box that put the Saints up 2-0 going into the half. The score was Hull’s 30th of the season.
His 31st came early in the second half and broke Larkin’s back as the rout was on.
“We have such weapons I think teams know that if they don’t get something fairly quickly they realize it might be a long game,” Jennison said. “We had a few chances in the first half but one thing I appreciate with these guys is patience. It’s just a case of can you exploit?”
Hull’s third goal with 34:29 to go in the second half thwarted any chance Larkin had, as the Royals again pressed at the start of the half. With the Royals’ spread out, East took full advantage as Daniel DiLeonardi matched Hull with a hat trick.
Zach Manibog and Andrew Shone added the other two goals as the Saints played as close to a perfect match as you can.
The lone blemish came late in the second half as Larkin’s Erik Rodriguez punched in a penalty kick for the Royals’ lone goal of the night.
“Since the two losses early in the season, we realized we had to put 100 percent effort into every game,” Hull said. “We started putting that in the back of our head and since then, we’ve been really solid. Our chemistry on the field is great and we make sure we’re ready for every game.”
East will take its high-flying act to Tuesday’s Barrington Supersectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Warren.