ST. CHARLES – Eight-time state champions. Six-hundred and three total victories. An 88-match streak without defeat. These are a few remarkable statistics that few high schools have the ability to say about any athletic program.
St. Charles High School – now St. Charles East – can, thanks to a number of talented athletes who have passed through the girls soccer program.
From Danielle Thomas and Marci Miller (now Jobson) to Anne Poulin and Ruth Poulin (now Vostal). Laurie Seidl’s 115 career goals. Goalkeeper Merit Elzey’s 61 career shutouts or star forward Patrice Feulner, just to name a few. These women have left quite a legacy and tradition behind for any player who ever will don the Saints orange and black colors with the notable fleur-de-lis emblem.
One of the most notable stretches came before St. Charles split into East and North for the 2000-01 school year. Before the split, the Saints and coach Joe Moreau (198 wins over eight seasons) won five straight state championships.
Oh, and Moreau’s teams from 1994 to 1996 went 88 straight matches without a defeat. New Trier, which according to head coach Jim Burnside entered Friday with 633 all-time victories, won 88 straight against Illinois foes from 2002 to 2005.
“I think there’s a lot that goes into having a successful program,” Moreau said. “The school has so much tradition and the girls really came in every day expecting and feeling like they had to win each and every game.”
Of the streak, he said: “Looking back, it’s a pretty awesome thing. High schools were covered much more and we had some national media at our games back then. It was fun to be a part of and it’s something I will never forget.”
Just to put in perspective how impressive not only the unbeaten streak was, but the five-year stretch of consecutive state titles, here’s an idea:
In those five seasons, from 1996 to 2000, the Saints won 138 of 149 matches, tied six times and were defeated five times. Five losses in five seasons. The team did not lose a match during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. They averaged 4.3 goals a game and conceded an average of just less than nine goals a season.
In 1998, St. Charles High recorded 26 shutouts, which is second-most ever in a season in state history.
The program began play in 1982.
Vostal was a standout forward from 1991 to 1994 and is now the head girls soccer coach at St. Charles North, where her successes include 12 straight regional titles and a trio of top three state tournament finishes entering this spring.
Vostal could not speak more highly of the outstanding youth and feeder programs that St. Charles has to develop young soccer players, a large part of why she believes they created a dynasty.
“When you have such well-developed programs preparing athletes for this level, it is such an added bonus,” Vostal said. “There’s no doubt we had talented players, but the amount of success we had has a lot to do with the coaching, as well.”
Another noticeable outcome from these teams is that some of the players, including Vostal, have become coaches themselves after playing under Tim Dailey and Moreau.
Vostal thinks playing under coaches that displayed such passion for the game helps her today as a coach.
“Looking back, now that I’m a coach, it makes me realize how hard that actually is to accomplish,” she said. “These guys set the tone and showed what it took to be successful. I really think a lot of that rubbed off on me as a coach. It has helped me become a better coach today.”
Jobson was another standout goal scorer from the 1992 and 1994 state championship teams. She has held head coaching positions at Baylor and Northern Illinois and still is with the Baylor program. Jobson maintains family ties to the program through her niece, East sophomore forward Claire Rasmussen.
Another coach who sustained success before Moreau was Dailey, the school’s all-time wins leader. In his 13 seasons at the helm, Dailey won 238 matches and three state titles (1990, 1992, 1994).
Moreau said Dailey played a vital role in how his girls came to practice and play each day.
“He set the standard and tradition at the school,” said Moreau, who now coaches Neuqua Valley. “The mentality he had was us against everyone. That’s really how it was back then, and that’s the same mentality I had with my players. The expectation level was so high and I think the history and tradition of the program made the girls bust their tails and work that much harder.”
One thing that should never be buried among the accolades for the Saints girls soccer program is sustainability. High school teams have good seasons and ride star athletes to state championships. That happens. But to sustain the winning and have a constant quality of players over the years is truly remarkable.
Sustainability goes beyond coaching. It goes beyond having talented players. Each player and coach knew of the expectations that Moreau spoke of, and that was the difference.
“There was always such a good mix of older and younger players on these teams,” Moreau said. “The older players would push the younger ones each day to make them better. They were very aware that when they left, it would be their teammates’ turn. The girls cared about the program and wanted to leave knowing it was in good hands.”
Once the schools split, after the 2000 spring season, Moreau coached two more years before exiting. In addition to Neuqua Valley, Moreau also coaches the Aurora-based Team Chicago girls travel team.
Pat Feulner was next up at the helm, winning 91 matches in nine seasons with East. The split has left St. Charles without a state title since Moreau’s last in 2000.
The closest the Saints have come to claiming the state’s top honor was last season, with a Class 3A runner-up finish under current coach Paul Jennison. In Jennison’s six-year tenure, there have been strong signs indicating a return to that prestigious level.
This season, the Saints have started 12-0 behind outstanding defense and strong attacking play. The girls have scored 47 goals and conceded just three. Those statistics are similar to Moreau’s St. Charles High teams of the late 1990s.
Senior forward Darcy Cunningham has played a large part in the Saints’ success over her four-year varsity career, and is very grateful to compete for such a prestigious program.
“It gives us a lot to live up to, but it’s really a privilege to play here,” Cunningham said. “It’s so amazing hearing from alumni and how excited they still are about our team. It’s really a testament to how special St. Charles soccer is.”
Even with a potential state title this season or a long winning streak in the future, it is hard to think that the dominance displayed by the Saints teams before the St. Charles schools split ever will be matched.
But knowing the tradition of the school and the work ethic of the current team, with a promising future under Jennison, there is no doubt East will do everything it can to return to that level – even with program cornerstones such as Vostal and Moreau now guiding staunch competitors.
With this season’s group being the team that helped the Saints eclipse the 600-win mark for the program, it was hard for Jennison to pinpoint a single reason for the run, but he knows it has been an entire school effort.
“Everyone involved with this school gives these kids the best possible chance to succeed,” Jennison said. “From the parents, teachers and coaches, to the club teams and community support, this area wants to see them succeed. There’s so many factors that go into reaching a mark like that, but it’s truly a testament to anyone who has ever played here.”
When all is said and done, there are few schools in Illinois that compare when it comes to tradition, success and passion for the sport of girls soccer.