ST. CHARLES – Expectations have risen so high for the St. Charles East boys soccer team that even a tournament championship isn't cause for celebration – at least not how the Saints won this one.
East played Streamwood to a scoreless tie Saturday at Norris Stadium in the championship game of the Saints' home tournament. The Saints, though, were named tournament champions based on superior victory margins during pool play.
Still, suffice it to say East's players didn't drain their energy for Saturday night's homecoming dance in celebrating their tournament title defense.
"I think you just have to look at the reaction to it to know what we feel this was," East coach Paul Jennison said. "We feel as though it was a game dropped rather than a tournament won. … We have high expectations."
The unbeaten Saints – either 10-0-2 or 10-0-3, depending on the still undetermined handling of a match against Waubonsie Valley that was not completed – encountered a Streamwood team that played soundly in its own end and pressured the Saints more effectively than most teams have been able to.
The Saints had a first-half goal disallowed because of an off-sides call but produced far fewer prime chances than they're used to. East junior forward Zach Manibog said the Sabres (10-2-2) compare favorably to some of the quality opponents the Saints have encountered this season.
"They're definitely up there," Manibog said. "They're really good."
Riding the second-half wind advantage, the Sabres nearly handed the Saints their first defeat as Streamwood's Brian Benitez had two quality chances about 20 seconds apart, the first stopped by Saints goalkeeper Chris Lucatorto, the second ricocheting off the crossbar. That sequence came with about 5 minutes to go in the match.
Streamwood coach Matt Polovin was proud of the Sabres' play.
"To hold them to zeros, and to have a couple good chances for us to win, that's phenomenal for these guys," Polovin said.
Steamwood is due back at Norris Stadium on Thursday for the teams' Upstate Eight Conference River match.
"To be honest, I think it's going to be more difficult for them than us because they're coming back into our place," Jennison said. "They've already put in a fantastic performance, and I'm sure Matt was extremely happy with the way they defended, but at the same time, I felt we still had the lion's share of possession and I thought we did have the majority of the game at our disposal, so therefore I think going forward our lads will be recharged and ready to try and get one back for having a draw here."
Before then, East will take part in Tuesday's Tri-Cities doubleheader. The Saints will take on host Geneva in the nightcap, and Jennison looks forward to seeing whether the Burgess Field turf will help rekindle the Saints' offense.
"The bounce is true and the ball moves quickly, and that's the way we play," Jennison said. "I think unfortunately [at East's field], the first couple weeks our field was beautiful, but now, a couple of football games later, a bit of sunshine, it's going to catch up. The quicker we get out there and get back out to a flat-top surface, I think it's going to suit our game to no end."