ST. CHARLES – St. CharlesNorth did a great job of preventing all of St. Charles East’s top offensive players from scoring Saturday night.
But the host North Stars couldn’t keep Cooper Macek from stealing the show.
Macek scored one of the best goals of the boys soccer season on a diving header with 14:08 left in the first half and that was all the Saints needed to clinch a 1-0 win and the Upstate Eight Conference River Division championship.
St. Charles East (17-0-4, 5-0-1 UEC River) will attempt to win the overall UEC title for the second straight year when it travels to Valley Division champion Metea Valley at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Macek’s goal, which was his first of the season, came off a corner kick from Jordan Moore. Running from right to left across the crease, Macek met Moore’s serve head-on near the left post and redirected it past North goalie Billy Larsen, who had no chance on the play.
“It was a great goal,” Macek said. “A diving header against North to win conference, you only dream about stuff like that.”
Macek, a senior defender, had tallied only once before in his varsity career, but East coach Paul Jennison may have had a premonition Macek would score.
“We joked before the game that he was going to get a goal and fantastically he did,” Jennison said. “It was a beautiful corner by Jordan and a great header by Coops. He managed to get himself on the end of it and if you attack the ball, good things will happen, so very proud of him for that.”
Diving headers aren’t something players generally practice because you never know when such an effort will be required, but Macek was prepared.
“Every so often we do [practice it], but playing in the back, headers is what you do every day,” Macek said. “It’s second-nature, so I can’t be afraid of heading the ball.”
Macek also teamed with Kyle McLean, Jacob Sterling, Brandon Villanueva and Kevin Heinrich to hold the North Stars (2-11-2, 0-4-1) without a single shot.
“It was great to see one of the seniors finishing up his high school career here,” Jennison said. “Last time he’s going to play against a local rival on their turf. He had his best game in a Saints shirt today, no doubt about it. He was absolutely fantastic.”
The Saints also dominated up front, unleashing 17 shots and taking 13 corner kicks. Usually that results in more than one goal, but this time it was left to a defender to dent the net.
“I think it just shows the nature of this team that anybody can score,” Macek said. “We’re not a team of one superstar, one go-to guy. Anybody on this team can step up and score on any given day and I think that really bodes well for our team.”
While pleased with his team’s effort, North coach Eric Willson is getting tired of close losses.
“I think we defended well but we certainly struggled on the offensive end,” Willson said. “We’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.”