ST. CHARLES – Trying to win the Rose Augsburg Drach Invitational has been like running against the wind for the St. Charles East girls soccer team in recent seasons. Saturday night at Norris Stadium, the Saints were literally running against the wind against Geneva in the first half, but they made the most of it to come away with a 3-0 victory that gave them the championship of the 24th annual tournament.
Having the gusty southerly wind in excess of 20 mph at their backs in the opening half figured to be a benefit for the Vikings (3-5), and they put three shots on goal in the first 20 minutes to none for East. But when the Saints (6-1-1) finally got a couple of scoring chances, Amanda Hilton capitalized with substantial help from Shannon Rasmussen.
With 18:13 left in the half, a beautiful corner kick by Rasmussen found Hilton’s right foot for a point-blank shot that she drilled into the top of the net.
“It was a great team effort to get it up there and get the corner, so that was great to see,” Hilton said. “Shannon – what a ball. It was perfect, right on the money. I knew I had to get something on it and I got my foot on it, so it was a great feeling.”
Four minutes later, Rasmussen targeted Hilton again with a great cross that the senior forward headed into the net to make it 2-0 at the half.
“Oh, man, she was on,” Hilton said of her junior teammate. “I keep telling her to keep getting it in there. She knows we’re always going to get on it. Her balls are perfect. Same with Darcy [Cunningham] on the other side, so it’s great to see that.”
East coach Paul Jennison shared Hilton’s assessment.
“Time and time again, I’ll say it – we’ve got such quality on the outside,” Jennison said. “We’ve got the ability all over the field to put balls in the box.”
Geneva coach Megan Owens lamented her team’s lackluster effort early in the contest.
“We didn’t show up for the first half,” she said. “I think we clearly showed up in the second half. We had a lot of fight and we played with a lot of heart in the second half, but we lacked that in the first half. It’s a learning experience. You have to show up for all 80 minutes.”
The Vikings did put together a couple of decent scoring chances in the second half, but by then the score was 3-0 because East senior forward Carly Pottle took advantage of a Geneva defensive miscue less than three minutes into the half, drilling a shot into the right side of the net from just inside the box.
Junior keeper Kendra Sheehan turned in a solid effort for the Saints in goal, making six saves. The Vikings put seven shots on goal to five for East, but that stat hardly mattered to the victors, none of whom were on the roster the last time the Saints won this tournament.
“It has been so long,” Jennison noted. “Some of these girls probably weren’t even in middle school last time we won it. … It’s tremendous. What an achievement it is to win this.”
The significance of the title wasn’t lost on Hilton and company, who also beat Geneva in conference play on Tuesday.
“It means so much to us,” Hilton said. “We haven’t won it in I don’t know how long. It’s been awhile. It’s great to see us all clicking this year and playing really well as a team.”