BARRINGTON – Keeping the St. Charles East boys soccer team off the board for 10 minutes at a time has proven a daunting proposition this season.
Warren was able to hold down the Saints for 65-plus minutes, tightening its defense after allowing an early score to claim Tuesday night’s IHSA Class 3A Barrington Supersectional, 2-1, over the Saints.
“They did an absolutely fantastic job of defending us in the second half,” East coach Paul Jennison said. “To be honest, with that wind, at 2-1 at halftime, I had no complaints. We thought we were in a pretty decent spot. Credit to Warren. ... Hands down, that’s the best team we’ve played this year.”
Warren advances to Friday’s Class 3A state semifinals, where it will face Sandburg at Lincoln-Way North High School.
“They’re definitely a tough team, they’re definitely physical, and it showed,” East junior Eric Dietrich said of the Blue Devils.
East (20-3-1) enjoyed the strong start that has become customary, scoring first on a Dietrich header of a Taylor Ortiz cross with 27:18 to play in the first half.
But the Saints were down 2-1 by halftime after conceding two Blue Devils goals in the span of less than a minute, the second coming on a low, skipping shot from Sean Kirwan, through heavy traffic and past Saints goalkeeper Chris Lucatorto with 17:58 left in the opening half.
East had a few decent scoring chances as the second half unfolded but came nowhere close to bombarding Warren with as many quality opportunities as had been the norm this season. The Saints torched Larkin for eight goals in the sectional final and piled up seven goals against St. Charles North in the regional final.
The Saints’ most realistic chance late came when midfielder Brian Gielow had a relatively clean look at the goal from about 25 yards out with 1:10 left to play. His shot scooted a few feet wide to the left.
Junior goalkeeper Mike Novotny, replacing Lucatorto at halftime as part of the team’s usual goalkeeper rotation, kept the defensive-minded Blue Devils (20-5-3) off the board in the second half as East sought an equalizer.
As well as East had played in recent weeks, Jennison acknowledged the Saints “had stars in our eyes as to what could have been,” but he was still delighted at the Saints’ overall body of work. The Upstate Eight Conference River champion Saints more than tripled their win total from last year.
“The fact that we got here after a six-win season last year is nothing short of amazing, so these boys should be very proud,” Jennison said.
East’s success was all the more striking considering only a handful of the team’s key players were seniors. Gielow is one of them, and he expects the returnees to build off the program’s resurgence in a big way.
“They’re definitely going to be a team to watch,” Gielow said. “A lot of great guys – really good footwork, fast. Everything you need.”