When the Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad originally built a line through what is now Frankfort back in 1855, no one envisioned it as the promised land.
But in the present, it’s soccer heaven as the state finals location for every Class 2A and 3A program that began practice on Aug. 20. It’s certainly the desired destination for St. Charles East and Warren, the combatants in Tuesday’s 3A Barrington Supersectional at 7 p.m.
Having finished fourth in last year’s state tourney, the Blue Devils’ desire to make an encore is based on unfinished business. For St. Charles East, it’s a hunger to return to the 1990s when the school had five of its six final four showings, including two state titles.
“It looks to be a very even game, so I think it comes down to who wants it more for 80 minutes,” St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. “It’s not about any one player for us but all 21. I don’t believe there’s another team in the state that can say they’ve used their whole roster all season like we have.”
In a one-sided 8-1 sectional victory, St. Charles East substitute Daniel DiLeonardi was a classic example, matching scoring leader T.C. Hull’s hat trick.
“Our entire team’s focus for Tuesday is simply taking care of business,” DiLeonardi said. “We are one win away from state.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play, it comes down to playing smart, solid soccer and putting the ball in the net,” added Hull, who has done the latter 31 times in helping the Saints post a 20-2-1 record that includes 11 straight victories and a 16-match (15-0-1) unbeaten streak.
St. Charles East’s success is represented on both sides of the season equation: 103 goals scored and a mere 16 given up.
“People are naturally interested in stats, but I think Ben Womac in back with Michael Macek slip under the radar, and Kevin Kurtz does a lot of dogged work in back of T.C.,” Jennison said. “As a former goalkeeper, I couldn’t imagine sitting either Chris Lucatorto or Mike Novotny. It may seem bizarre to others that we always use two keepers, but the fact is both can play and we’re confident in both.”
The duo has combined for 12 shutouts and each credits the other for helping with their individual success.
“He’s a great keeper, so when it’s my turn I feel the need to be a great keeper,” Novotny said.
“We really do push each other in practice and in games, plus we’re best of friends,” added Lucatorto.
Warren brings a seven-match win streak into the contest as part of a 19-5-3 campaign. Coach Jason Ahonen said the Blue Devils’ success stems from their midfield, which features two-time All-State pick Daniel Szczepanek and fellow senior Sean Kirwan plus junior Rafa Macias.
Szczepanek boasts 13 goals along with a whopping 22 assists, most of which have gone to a stellar trio of seniors in Auner Solis (22 goals, six assists), Tony Severini (10 goals, 10 assists), and Nick Wegrzynowicz (13 goals, five assists).
“We know East moves the ball very quickly and has a quality attack in Hull, but the key is for us to control ourselves,” Ahonen said. “We cannot let them dictate what we do. We were second in the preseason rankings, so our own expectations have been high, but we’ve got six senior starters who lead by example.”