ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East needed to win Tuesday's league finale – and get a little help – to win the inaugural DuKane Conference boys soccer championship.
Lake Park didn't let it happen.
The Lancers broke the only tie of the match with a late first-half goal and added the first two goals of the second half in short order on their way to a 5-3 victory.
Lake Park ended any hope St. Charles East (4-3) had of winning the conference championship by improving to 4-1-1 in the league; the Saints will enter their regular-season finale against Wheaton Academy on Thursday with a 10-7 overall record.
St. Charles East coach Vince DiNuzzo believed the five goals was a season-high allowed as five different players scored for Lake Park.
DiNuzzo felt the absence of junior defender Geoff Unterberg was the critical missing link for the Saints’ back-row defense.
“Missing a center-back is like a basketball team without a point guard,” DiNuzzo said. “Everything flows through [the center-back]. Self-inflicted errors in the back row. We did not play well in the back.”
The offensive action was virtually unending after Gray McClean opened the scoring for Lake Park with 26 minutes, 14 seconds to play in the first half.
Franco Presto soon doubled the Lancers’ lead with a brilliant goal, but the Saints’ Sebastian Carranza and Luke Schnitker personally mounted a twin assault for St. Charles East.
Taking full advantage of a miscommunication between the Lancers’ keeper and one of his defensive backs, Carranza cashed in with few difficulties.
“The center-back made a bad pass back to the keeper,” said Carranza, a freshman forward. “The goalie came out, and I was able to chip it over his head.”
With their deficit suddenly halved, the Saints’ Schnitkersoon followed with the equalizer.
Two seconds shy of five minutes later, Schnitker also beat the Lancers’ keeper with 8:29 remaining.
“I was able to put between his legs,” Schnitker said.
The Saints were literally inches away from taking the lead shortly thereafter.
But Truitt Battin, a senior midfielder for the Saints, had his left-foot low runner ricochet off the Lancers’ right post.
“It’s a momentum killer,” DiNuzzo said. “It just wasn’t our night.”
The capricious near-goal would soon come back to haunt the Saints as Lake Park delivered in the final minute-plus of the first half.
“It was terrible,” said the senior Schnitker. “That goal right before the first half was a killer. After that we started letting up [after halftime] and they started pounding us.”
The Lancers applied a pair of daggers with early second-half goals; the Saints could manage only a Carranza penalty kick late in the contest to establish the final score.
Schnitker saw some hope as the Saints approach the Class 3A Addison Trail sectional. St. Charles East opens regional play Oct. 17 against Glenbard East.
“It bodes well,” the midfielder said of the fifth-seeded Saints, who will host a regional. “We don’t want to be in that position [as we were tonight] later in the playoffs.”
Schnitker and Carranza lead the Saints’ offense with 11 goals apiece.