NAPERVILLE – The St. Charles East boys soccer team knows it has a long season ahead.
The Saints won’t get ahead of themselves, but they certainly looked like a team that could make another lengthy postseason run this fall, cruising past Neuqua Valley, 5-1, in Tuesday's season opener.
“I’ll be the first to tell these boys that the only thing I take out of the game, except for the nice result, is we have a lot of things we can work on,” Saints coach Paul Jennison said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. Our main emphasis is going to be getting better every single day.”
St. Charles East, which went 20-2-4 a season ago, but lost a heartbreaker, 1-0, to Lake Park in the Class 3A Schaumburg Sectional championship, needed just 2:01 to take a 1-0 lead over the Wildcats on a Tyler Robbins goal.
Zach Manibog added to the lead with 26:36 remaining in the first half, scoring the first of his two goals.
“I think we came out with a lot of energy,” said Manibog, one of several key returners for the Saints. “Everyone was eager and I think we proved that we are ready for the season.”
Evan DiLeonardi extended the lead to 3-0 with 10:07 remaining before intermission.
The Saints were rarely threatened by the Wildcats as they dominated possession.
“I think it’s pretty simple. Just keeping it to one-two touch, quick play,” Saints defender Brandon Villanueva said. “That will get you up the field the quickest. We were able to transition from one side and get the ball to the middle. I believe if we can do that, it’s going to bring us the most success this season.”
Neuqua Valley’s Mike Moser broke the shutout six minutes into the second half. His initial shot caromed off St. Charles East sophomore keeper Steven Owens and right back into Moser’s path, where he had a wide-open opportunity.
It was one of the only stains on a strong debut by the Saints, who were also able to play their entire roster.
“It was a lot of fun to watch,” Jennison said. “We got all 22 guys rotating in and that’s a great position for a coach to have. But, it’s the first game of the season and early in the season. A lot can happen. We’re going to go back and work on some of the basics we can clean up.”
Manibog scored his second goal of the match with 27:12 remaining. Fellow senior Collin Sheehan joined in the fun with 13:16 left on the clock.