GENEVA – By virtually all objective criteria, St. Charles North should have had a one-sided victory in its DuKane Conference boys soccer match in Geneva on Tuesday evening.
But the North Stars would have a near-match-long nemesis between the pipes in Geneva senior keeper Chris Morales.
The host Vikings were on the cusp of a major regular-season upset as their lone shot in the first half was converted by Jack Belloli.
St. Charles North, meanwhile, had 16 shots in the first 40 minutes.
Morales saved 11 of the North Stars’ shots, and a shutout was gaining traction as time wound down in the second half.
But the North Stars’ Thomas Weber scored off a rebound with five minutes, 43 seconds remaining to forge an eventual 1-1 draw.
“I think any other time I would have [secured the ball],” Morales said of the initial St. Charles North shot. “From there I was able to regain my confidence.”
The North Stars’ Matt Beaulieu had his final shot deflect off the post as time was about to expire.
Geneva has had an exasperating season thus far.
The Vikings have one win against six losses; the draw with St. Charles North was the second straight to start league play.
St. Charles North, fourth in Class 3A last fall, is 7-3-1, 0-1-1.
“I feel like the morale was down at the beginning [of the season], but we are beginning to rebuild,” Morales said.
In the first half alone, Morales was repeatedly in a prone position, saving balls from all angles while also punching others over the crossbar.
“Their keeper played great,” Beaulieu said. “Every time I play Geneva — whether it is freshman level or JV level — we just can’t find a way to put it in the back of the net. It was frustrating because [Morales] was playing out of his mind the entire match.”
“We were holding on for dear life,” Geneva coach Jason Bhatta said. “[Morales] had a phenomenal game for us. You’ve got to have your goalie get one or two key saves. He kept us in the game the whole game, so giving up that one goal is going to happen.”
Morales was quick to compliment the Vikings’ back-row defenders — Stuart Turnball, Josh Eiss, Jack Cannon, Dominic Peri and Evan Horvath.
“My defense helped me out with the deflections and everything,” Morales said. “I remember one [St. Charles North] header. It was a really good save and kept us in it. I feel like we’re playing with a lot more confidence than the first eight matches.”
“That’s the way team sports go,” St. Charles North coach Eric Willson said. “We had three mistakes in a 15-second span that led to a goal. We dominated possession, we dominated goal-scoring opportunities. Their keeper made some really nice saves that kept them in the game.”