A largely inexperienced defense was the biggest question mark for St. Charles East entering the season.
As the postseason nears, the Saints' play on the back line has developed into one of the most confidence-inspiring aspects of the team's game. East's defense has shined in recent shutouts against formidable opponents such as Conant, Kaneland and Neuqua Valley.
"Excellent," East coach Paul Jennison said of his team's defensive play this season. "It's been very good. We've made a few switches from the first lineup of the first game in the season, a couple changes, whether it's due to injury or players just stepping up and filling the role excellently."
Senior Shannon Rasmussen, a midfielder and forward for much of her Saints career, was moved to left-back part-way through the season, and Jennison said it's served the Saints well.
"It's a compliment to her that she's embraced the role of helping out our team, coming into that position and playing the best I've seen her play in her time here," Jennison said. "She's really moved forward and been a massive part of our team this season."
Junior Mallory Mollenhauer book-ends East's defense as right-back while sophomore Sonia Ost and junior Sara Buetow are excelling in the middle of the defense.
Jennison said East's defensive depth also has come through with sophomore Julia Peterson and junior Maggie Smith factoring in heavily.
"A lot of those girls have started various games," Jennison said. "There's six or seven of them that could start in that back line, and I feel very confident in any of them."
Knights, Royals remain on collision course
Kaneland and Rosary are the top two seeds at next week's IHSA Class 2A Rosary Regional, and neither team faces a highly regarded opponent in its regional semifinal matchup.
That means it's likely the Knights and Royals will meet in a regional final for the fourth time in five years, with Rosary victorious in each of those previous meetings. Last year's regional final in Rochelle went double overtime, with Rosary prevailing, 2-1.
Kaneland – the regional's top seed this year – is still hunting its first regional title in program history.
Geneva coach Megan Owens was especially pleased with her team's play in Friday's 3-1 win against St. Charles East considering the team's build-up to the match.
"You never know when you play two weaker teams in a week, with Elgin and Larkin, I wasn't quite sure if we'd come out focused, and we did," Owens said. "They played great."
Owens loved what she saw in the Vikings' play up top, where senior Michaela Loebel and junior Mary Landry clicked throughout the night.
"It takes a while to get the chemistry going," Owens said. "I think this was our strongest game offensively of the season."
IN THE GROOVE
Mary Landry, Geneva, Jr., F
What she did: Landry scored two of Geneva's three goals and assisted on the other in Friday's 3-1 Vikings victory against St. Charles East.
Abby Olson, Wheaton Academy, Sr., F
What she did: Olson had one of Wheaton Academy's three goals and set up another from Rachel Song off her corner kick Tuesday as the Warriors blanked Rosary, 3-0, in Suburban Christian Conference action.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Postseason cakewalks are hard to come by, even in Class 1A.
After a strong regular season, Aurora Central Catholic bowed out of the postseason in a hurry with a 2-0 regional semifinal loss Tuesday against Hinckley-Big Rock.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which teams can advance to regional finals.
Regional semifinals will for teams in classes 2A and 3A will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, with championship matches slated for May 23 and May 24.
COACH SLY SAYS
Postseason soccer is upon us, and Sly's definitely ready.
We have a chance at an all-Tri-Cities regional final with Batavia and St. Charles North part of the same regional next week, and Geneva and St. Charles East are plenty capable of bringing home regional titles, too.
Then in Class 2A, this could be the year Kaneland finally breaks through and wins a regional, and you have teams like St. Francis and Wheaton Academy capable of going pretty deep.
Bring on the postseason drama, PK shootouts and all.