Saints improve to 2-0 with win over Batavia
By Darryl Mellema
There is certainly no way to deny the emphatic nature of a 5-0 scoreline – such as the one St. Charles East produced on Thursday against longtime rival Batavia.
But no one on the Saints sideline was getting beyond themselves after the Upstate Eight Conference River Division contest. A large and mostly comfortable victory, perhaps, but Batavia had significant spells where it was dominant.
And if Batavia’s portion of the sideline was quiet as the 80 minutes concluded, the hosts in this clash – the other reality is that it’s still August, this was the second match of the season for both teams and no one wins – or loses – anything in terms of seasonal honors in August.
“We played real well all around,” St. Charles East junior Tyler Robbins said. “We kept shifting the ball around and generating shots. It was the first time this season that we got goals not off set pieces and we still got two goals off set pieces as well.”
The match started solidly for St. Charles East (2-0, 1-0). In the opening 15 minutes, Taylor Ortiz had a shot from the top of the penalty area saved by Batavia goalie John Faraone. Ortiz crossed for Robbins, who volleyed over the goal, Jacob Sterling hit a sharp shot that Faraone saved and Andrew Shone hit a shot that was deflected wide for a corner kick.
From that corner kick, Evan DiLeonardi rose free of the defense and headed into the goal.
“At the beginning, we were kind of jittery,” Robbins said. “But as soon as we started getting it on the ground and the first goal, we kept getting composed.”
The Saints’ second goal came from Daniel DiLeonardi and was a highlight reel left-footed volley that tore into the Batavia net at the left side netting. With the other 21 players motionless and the crowd unsure if the ball had gone in or had hit the outside of the net – the goalscorer tore away, with an increasing number of teammates following close behind in celebration.
“We had pounded in long throw’s all game,” Daniel DiLeonardi said. “My teammates had been crashing in and it had been getting cleared out by their defenders just to the top of the box and we hadn’t had anyone there. So I decided to sit there on the top and when it came to me, I had one of those strikes that you visualize in warm-ups. It was perfect – upper 90, one of those goals you hope that always happens.”
Batavia (1-1, 0-1) rallied late in the half and fashioned its best chance eight minutes before halftime when Joe Jorgenson moved up the right side and passed to the left for Brandon Yonker, whose shot produced a save from Saints goalie Mike Novotny.
Just over two minutes into the second half, Robbins took the ball and took advantage of some defensive breakdowns and scored.
“I thought they were standing off a little bit,” Robbins said. “The ball would go to one side and then it left me wide open.”
Batavia could look at defensive lapses on each of the opening goals – a free header for the first goal and a weakly cleared ball that came to an unmarked Saints player for the second. The match’s third goal contained elements where the Bulldogs were as frustrated for their part in the goal as the Saints were elated to have scored.
“We’ve got to clear the ball,” Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “The first three goals were all on missed clears. The first was a corner and we didn’t hold our mark. The second was a clear to the top of the box and the third was a ricochet and a missed clear and they bang it in. At the end of the day, you can’t give good teams like that opportunities in front of the goal.”
Seventeen minutes into the second half, Daniel DiLeonardi scored his second goal when a Robbins shot from the left portion of the penalty area caromed off the left post and came to DiLeonardi in the right portion of the penalty area. Daniel DiLeonardi redirected the ball into the net.
“That one was a good bit of play by Andrew Shone and Tyler Robbins connecting at the top of the box,” Daniel DiLeonardi said. “(Robbins) got a shot off and I made sure to curve my run and time my run to be there at the far post to clean it up. It just happened to bounce off the post and I took care of the finish.”
Sam Shelton completed the match scoring when he dribbled through the defense and scored a nice solo goal with 4:31 to play.
Batavia came closest to breaking the shutout when Ian Larson hit a free kick in the final minute that Novotny tipped over the crossbar.
“We’ve got some good things going on,” Gianfrancesco said. “We’ve just got to put it together and be smarter clearing it out of the back.”
Though only two matches have been played, the Saints can see signs of a strong season. The defense, which includes Brandon Villanueva, Kyle McLean, Kevin Heinrich and Jacob Sterling, has registered 160 shutout minutes heading into Friday’s massive showdown with Wheaton Academy.
“We’ve got a big squad and we’ve got kids who haven’t even seen the field yet,” St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. “We have five players who haven’t even practiced in the last week with injuries or concussions. The bottom line is these kids fit in well with each other. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not something I can work on as a coach. Either they have it or they haven’t. At the moment, it looks as though it’s going well.”
Competition for places is another strength of the Saints team, which excelled in 2012 and has a large number of returning players.
“We’re all here to compete,” Robbins said. “No one has a for sure spot on the roster. It’s a lot of fun practicing hard every day. That makes it competitive and it’s a lot of fun.”
The St. Charles East-Wheaton Academy rivalry has become a strong one in recent years, and the 6:30 match at the Warriors field is expected to draw a large crowd.
“Unfortunately at school, everyone’s been talking about that (Wheaton Academy) one,” Jennison said. “There’s no football game tomorrow night. We know it’s Wheaton Academy, it’s their opener. It’s been hard to keep the guys focused on this game tonight, and that’s no disrespect to Batavia. It’s just because we seem to have built a local rivalry with Wheaton Academy over the years and it’s seen as a big game.”
Batavia does not play until after Labor Day weekend. The Bulldogs travel to West Aurora on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. match. Gianfrancesco said the mistakes his team can be solved.
“They’re fixable,” he said. “Is St. Charles a good team? Yeah. Are they amazing? No. We helped them a little bit. But I think we did some nice things we did today that we didn’t do Tuesday. We had some nice combinations and we were dropping it back to our mids and looking to play it through.”
Gianfrancesco said he also took heart from the way his team never surrendered, despite the growing disparity on the scoreboard.
“A year ago, we would have been struggling to come back from a loss like this,” he said. “This year, we’re a year older and more mature. I think they’re going to be able to take it, use it for what it’s worth and move on and get ready for West Aurora. The season’s not over – it’s only the second game and we’ve got a lot left to play for.”