Warriors, Saints scoreless play halted by weather
By Darryl Mellema
Forty turbulent minutes on the Norris Stadium pitch between St. Charles East and Waubonsie Valley couldn't trump the what was going on in the sky on Thursday night.
Those not mesmerized by the Harvest Moon shining high in the east sky across from the stadium and who looked north saw a series of lightning streaks that began at halftime and saw no sign of stopping – which caused officials to call a halt to the match.
At the time the teams left the field, the score was still 0-0. While the match is official and could count toward both team's records, there was a consensus that each schools' athletic director would work with the other to try to find a makeup date for the remaining 40 minutes.
“It was definitely the right call by the referees,” St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. “It's frustrating to be walking off at halftime. But at the same time, safety's got to be the main concern. If we can, we'll get a date to finish the match and take care of it then.”
Two issues stand in the way of finding a suitable date to reschedule. One is the packed midseason schedules both teams have and the second is the early October sectional seeding date.
“The season's not very old but we're already looking at (sectional) seeding,” Jennison said. “It's sad that your whole season is strategic around the playoffs, but that is the beauty of the way we play.
“We'll sit down and try to talk and if there's anything can do to make it happen, we will. I think both coaches want to play. But we want to be sensible and not put these kids in five or six mathces in a row.”
The match had the intensity of some of the great Waubonsie Valley-St. Charles East matchups over the last 20 years, and finding an 80-minute result was on the mind of both teams as they headed home on Thursday night.
The portion of the match that was played mostly favored neither team, one of those taut clashes between strong teams from each of the Upstate Eight Conference divisions.
“It was a pretty good, end-to-end game,” Jennison said. “I've said from the start of the season that I think their results don't really send a picture of how good a team they are. I thought they were defending very well and they've got some dangerous players going forward.”
While the Saints had some efforts on goal, the best scoring chance of the 40 minutes played came six minutes before halftime and fell to Waubonsie Valley.
From a right-sided corner kick, first Robert Ohse and then John Chapman had shots at goal. The first was saved by Saints keeper Chris Lucatorto and the second was blocked. Ohse had a second effort parried by Lucatorto.
“We had a good chance,” Waubonsie coach Angelo DiBernardo said. “But the effort gave us an effort to be in the game.”
Through those 40 minutes, the Warriors displayed none of the mental lapses that DiBernardo has mentioned have plagued his team at times this season.
“Let's just say that we played hard,” DiBernardo said. “Playing hard gave us an opportunity to stay in the game. I don't think we were better than them or that they were better than us. It was an evenly-matched game, the way I saw it.
“But playing hard for the 40 minutes gave us a chance to be in the game, and that is what we're striving for.”
Ohse was one those players who gave everything he had for his team. A senior midfielder, he moved forward frequently to trouble the Saints while also holding back to provide defensive depth.
“He's not the most skillful player, but he works very hard,” DiBernardo said. “He wins a lot of balls in the air. So he's our energy. When he's got energy, it's contagious and some of the other kids look at his energy and they try to match it.
“We tell them that if (Ohse) can do it, you can do it. He sets a good example from the energy standpoint. He brings a lot of heart and fighting spirit and dedication.”
Finding that level of intensity has been a struggle for this year's Warriors team – but DiBernardo said this is something that plagues more than just his squad.
“It's easier said than done with these kids nowadays,” DiBernardo said. “I'm sorry to say it. To me, that was the easiest thing anyone could tell me. If I'm having a bad game, run your butt off to substitute for the bad game that you're having. And then the coaches will say 'good try.'
“But if things don't go your way and you let your head get down and the effort's not there, that is exactly what this generation does.”
The Saints were dangerous when they got the ball into wide positions and sent crosses back to the middle of the field. A number of these infield passes were made by junior Zach Manibog, who hugged the right touchline for most of the half.
“The kid's just a solid, hard-working kid,” Jennison said. “He's a three-sport athlete and he loves the game and he's hard-working. He's built like a tank and he does everything you ask. He's got speed. He finishes and you have no complaints at all about him.
“He's got better and better on his last two years on varsity and I think he'll be even better next year in his senior year.”
Lucatorto's play was sterling and proved again that the Saints really do have two strong keepers. The other is Mike Novotny – and both are seniors this season.
“He made a great save,” Jennison said. “I know everyone loves to talk about those two and try to figure out what's going on. I think I've been very clear on it. Those two are the best two keepers in the state, and it's very difficult to separate them.
“They've both been extremely consistent and they've both grown and they're both very much improved on last year, and that's the way they've both been their whole careers. I know I have absolute faith in both of them, and the whole team does.”