Saints advance to tourney title game but lose Novotny
By Chris Walker
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of athletics.
Really, there’s no way around them.
Athletes hone their bodies in the weight room and eat right to get bigger and faster as well as protect against injuries. Such dedication can help an athlete hold up against the physical nature of their sport, but sometimes injuries just can’t be avoided.
It’s simple. When two very good athletes are moving quickly and they abruptly collide, the result is usually bad and sometimes very, very bad.
Such was the case during Thursday’s St. Charles East Tournament game between Marmion and St. Charles East.
The Saints were leading 2-0 about midway through the second half when it happened. Afterward, both teams only seemed to be going through the motions to finish the game, which the Saints won, 4-1, to advance to Saturday’s title game against Streamwood.
With 21:45 left in the contest, Saints keeper Mike Novotny and Marmion forward Flynn Collins had a full-speed collision while going for a loose ball.
It left both players on the field for nearly 20 minutes. Novotny was carted off by an on-site trainer’s vehicle while Collins was secured to a stretcher and taken away on an ambulance.
Immediately after the game, little was known about the status of the two players, but an update on their conditions was released later, and the news wasn’t good.
Collins broke his jaw in two places and also lost some teeth. He is scheduled to have surgery on Saturday.
His high school will come to an sudden end, which is especially sad since he was a in the midst of a huge offensive season with 15 goals and 4 assists already, easily eclipsing the 10 goals he scored last year.
“Right now, of course, we’re hoping for the best for him,” Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said. “It’s going to be a huge loss and obviously you have to wonder where we’re going to get our goals from because he’s been involved in most of them.”
Collins had been one of the most dynamic players in the area this season and was putting the finish touches on a brilliant career. The fourth-year player also was on the 2011 team that placed 4th in the Class 2A state tournament.
Del Toro said Collins won’t be able to resume any sort of physical activities until at least 12 weeks after the surgery, but he’s hopeful for a speedy recovery and that Collins can resume his pursuit of playing in college.
“He’s got several options already with Loras Collage and Wisconsin-Parkside,” Del Toro said. “He definitely wants to play and that showed with what he’s done for us this season. He spent a lot of time in the off-season working with his speed and getting stronger to play in college.”
The news was nowhere near as bad for Novotny and the Saints, although Novotny will be sore for a while and will miss at least two weeks. Novotny suffered a deep bone bruise on his leg as well as a sprained ligament in his ankle. The ankle injury will keep him out of the net and Chris Lucatorto, who filled in on Thursday, will likely take over.
The injury wasn’t typical for soccer. Knee injuries and concussions might be commonplace, but a broken jaw and a ferocious collision just aren’t frequent, but unfortunately Collins and Novotny arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time, with Collins sliding downward and into Novotny at a vulnerable angle.
“I’ve seen a lot of injuries with guys going up for the ball but this was a weird accident,” Del Toro said. “With how Flynn slid he must’ve hit (Novotny’s) knee or shin. It’s something I’ve never seen before, that’s for sure.”
The teams ultimately continued but it was apparent that the Cadets’ minds were fully on Collins’ well-being rather than the match at-hand. In the ensuing four minutes of play, Evan DiLeonardi had a tap-in and Andrew Shone scored 41 seconds later to double-up the Saints lead to 4-0.
“The game becomes irrelevant after an injury like that,” Saints coach Paul Jennison said. “The game suddenly is a non-issue and you just wish them the best.”
The victory pushed the Saints into Saturday’s championship match against Streamwood.
“We take this tournament and a look at it as part of our run toward the post-season,” Shone said. “We treat every game as a state championship so we come out and play as hard as we can so we don’t get beaten.”
St. Charles East (10-0-2) remains unbeaten, and much of that has to do with its quick starts.
This time it was Dan DiLeonardi scoring with 38:16 still left in the opening half.
“It certainly has been a big bonus of ours this year that we’ve been able to get ahead quickly in quite a few games,” Jennison said. “It relaxes people. They’re confidence is high, but you can’t put a price on early goal and it can take the wind out of the other team's sails.”
Shone, who had a two-goal night, put the Saints ahead 2-0, when he was able to break free and then tap a shot past keeper Matthew Fletcher.
“It’s always fun to score two goals,” Shone said. “But the important stat we look at is goals against, and our defense has been so good. It’s great to score those 4 or 5 goals a game, but if the other team can’t score, they can’t beat you.”
Marmion (6-6-1) broke the shutout with a Landon Meyer goal with 8:45, but the brief reprieve did little to excite a team that lost its scoring leader.
“They are a very fast group and we knew that if we let down just a little bit, they’d get behind us,” Del Toro said. “Balls were coming across pretty fast and that’s what they did right away and had us on our heels a little. We had two chances with Flynn one-on-one with the keeper and maybe if he buried one of those, it would’ve been a different game, but we’ll never know.”
What’s known for sure is that the Cadets have little time to recover, as they conclude play in the tournament on Saturday at 10 a.m. If nothing else, it gives them a chance to see what they can do without Collins along with it being the luxury of a non-conference contest.
“It was good to come out here and play St Charles East because they’re one of the top teams right now in the state,” Del Toro said. “I think it it’s going to be good for us. We’ll see what we can do next from here.”