The results have been great for St. Charles East, much like last season, but the Saints are no carbon copy of their 2012 selves.
While East has numerous holdovers from last year’s Upstate Eight Conference River and sectional champion team, this season was sure to take on a different feel once scoring dynamo T.C. Hull was lost to an ACL tear during the offseason. But Hull’s absence isn’t the only new twist for the Saints (5-0-1).
Both of East’s goalkeepers from last season, Mike Novotny and Chris Lucatorto, return, but East coach Paul Jennison is deploying them differently.
Whereas the two typically each played a half in matches last season, Jennison’s plan this year is to have them trade full games – at least for a while.
“I sometimes felt that, unfortunately, it wasn’t really giving them much incentive because they seemed to be rotating regardless,” Jennison said of last year’s formula. “Now they’re going to play a game each until one of them starts to pull away from the other one, and I think the team seems to be responding to that.”
Novotny has enjoyed an especially notable week, shutting out Wheaton Academy on Monday, the same day he committed to play collegiately at Eastern Illinois.
Elsewhere, Jennison said the depth of this year’s team could end up rivaling that of the 2012 Saints, especially once East returns to full strength. Cooper Macek (MCL injury), Eric Dietrich (hip flexor) and Jeff Chitwood (concussion) have all been out of the mix the first few weeks.
“I think when those [players] come back in we’ve got an even stronger squad … we’ll be in a very strong position [for the rest of the season],” Jennison said.
Fast start in the SCC
Tuesday’s conference opener between St. Francis and Marmion caught Spartans coach Kristin Keigley off guard before the match even began.
The Spartans, 4-0 losers against Marmion, have a rapid turnaround to tonight’s home opener against another rival and Suburban Christian Conference power – Wheaton Academy. Keigley said she doesn’t remember the conference schedule being so front-loaded with difficult games in the past.
“This is my fourth year as the head coach at Francis and it’s always come down to Marian, Wheaton Academy and Marmion and us [in the conference race],” Keigley said. “Those are always the last games of the conference season, and this year for some reason they flipped it, and now those four teams are all playing each other first thing in the season, which is very strange for our conference to have that type of schedule.”
Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said he thought his team was prepared for big conference matches early after going through the rugged Barrington Invitational last week, but Keigley’s youthful team could use more prep time.
The Spartans struggled to contain 6-foot-3 Cadets sophomore Conor Morton (two goals, assist) and Cadets speedster Flynn Collins.
“We lost pretty much our entire defense [from] last year,” Keigley said. “So we’re still trying to work out our flat-back 4 defense and trying to get our midfielders working with the defenders. … We were allowing some of those through-balls through, but the boys don’t have fear of size. They’ll challenge anybody, so it’s more of us trying to put the pieces together to able to stop those sort of through-balls and stop that type of threat.”
– Jay Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE GROOVE
Conor Morton, Marmion, So., F
What he did: With plenty of help from teammate Flynn Collins, Morton helped pick apart St. Francis on Tuesday, scoring two goals and assisting on a Collins goal in the Cadets' 4-0 victory.
Austin VanAcker, Burlington Central, Sr., D
What he did: VanAcker's defensive leadership has drawn rave reviews from Rockets coach Mike Gecan, most recently after Central's key, 2-1 Big Northern Conference win Tuesday against Harvard. "He pretty much anchors that back line and keeps everything structured," Gecan said. "[Brett] Rau makes the saves, Austin was winning the balls. He cleans up everything aerially."
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Scoring is a major struggle for Geneva at this stage of the season.
The Vikings fell to non-conference foe DeKalb, 1-0, on Thursday after dropping their first two Upstate Eight Conference River matches, 1-0 to Streamwood and 3-1 to Larkin.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How Kaneland stacks up with DeKalb, perhaps the top contender in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
On Tuesday, the Knights are scheduled to visit the Barbs, who are off to a strong start that includes the aforementioned win against Geneva.