It's been a team effort to take St. Charles East to the top of the Upstate Eight Conference soccer standings, and the Saints punctuated that in the first UEC crossover championship game Wednesday night in St. Charles.
The Saints put six goals on the scoreboard by six different players in dominating East Aurora 6-1 in the first year the conference has pitted the River and Valley Division champs for an overall UEC title.
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"This was a big game, getting the first championship is huge," said Saints forward TC Hull who scored the first of those six goals.
St. Charles East (16-2-1), now 11-0-1 in its last 12 games, has only lost to Streamwood and Lyons. Third in the River Division a year ago, it's been quite a climb for Paul Jennison's club.
"It was very special because obviously it goes down in the history books," Jennison said. "It's a reward for the hard work they have put in. They have put in a lot of time and effort and it's nice to send the seniors out the right way."
Jennison called the title a "massive achievement. These lads should be very proud of that."
Before the game the Saints honored seniors Ben Womac, Michael Macek, Brian Gielow, Elliot Welter, Brad Corirossi, Kevin Kurtz, Connor McLean and Alex Johnson.
The Saints, who defeated East Aurora 5-2 to open the season, were locked in a scoreless tie for the first 24 minutes before striking quickly. Keeper Chris Lucatorto's punt got past the Tomcats to a streaking Hull who settled the ball and then beat the keeper to the right corner for a 1-0 lead.
The goal was the 23rd of the season for Hull who was surprised how easy the championship game turned out to be.
"We were expecting a tougher game," Hull said. "We came in and played our game and did well. We've been scoring a ton of goals this season, once the goals start going in it gets easier and easier. It's not one player scoring this year, our whole team is scoring. It's been a great season."
St. Charles East made it 2-0 when Gielow blasted a rebound in just two minutes before halftime.
The Tomcats scored their only goal early in the second half and had a couple chances to tie. Instead, with 28 minutes remaining a sliding touch pass from Welter to Brandon Villanueva put the Saints up 3-1 and opened the floodgates for the explosive St. Charles East attack to turn the championship game into a blowout.
"We had a 10-minute spell where they were on top of us and that game could have gone either way when they scored but we found a way to come back," Jennison said. "We do have some weapons. We do have speed throughout the team."
Those final three Saints goals came from Eric Dietrich, Zach Manibog and Andrew Shone off a fancy assist by Johnson -- giving St. Charles East four goals in a mere eight minutes and a good feeling heading into the Class 3A Wheaton North regional next week as a No. 1 sectional seed.
"The momentum carrying forward into the postseason, that's all you can ask," Jennison said. "But at the same time the boys are aware that once the postseason starts everything goes out the window. It's been a fantastic season. To close it the way we did is very special. However we know it's going to be no easy task in the postseason. They are going to have to dig even digger now."
The Saints now turn their focus to extending their stay in the postseason.
"We're all looking forward to the playoffs because we haven't done anything in awhile and we want to see how far we can go," Hull said.