It takes something out of the ordinary to beat Kaneland keeper Jordan Ginther. On Saturday, for 77 minutes, the only shot St. Charles East was able to put past the Knights shot-stopping superstar was a ball that hit Shannon Rasmussen in the face and redirected into the net within the opening 2 minutes of play.
"Their keeper is fantastic and we knew that before the game started," Rasmussen said. "We had a bunch of chances but we couldn't put it away. We kept hitting it straight at her or taking really far-out shots."
Rasmussen scored the other goal of the match with three minutes left when she placed a quickly-taken free kick into the right side netting. The 2-0 nonconference victory is the Saints' fourth in a row and continues a 10-match unbeaten run that started with the second match of the season. St. Charles East enters Tuesday's key matchup with crosstown rival St. Charles North 9-1-1.
The pattern for much of the match centered on St. Charles East's possession and attack toward a compressed Kaneland midfield and defense. Saints defenders and central midfielders enjoyed an abundance of time on the ball on Kaneland's perfectly-manicured pitch.
"When we started hitting the wide players, things started working out really well," Rasmussen said. "We just kept connecting it. That early goal was important and then we kept possession until other chances happened."
And make no mistake, the Saints were enjoying playing on a wide, flat, fully-grassed playing surface that is almost unheard of any more. Kaneland's soccer field does not get used for anything but the Knights boys and girls soccer teams.
"Like our coach (Paul Jennison) said at halftime, this field worked out really well for us," Rasmussen said. "It was perfectly flat and we could keep playing balls and connecting. It's perfect. It's in much better condition than our field is in right now. It's awesome."
In the center of the field, Anna Corirossi was one of the players enjoying that extra time and space with which to create. The junior, playing alongside Amanda Hilton, played an array of long and short passes to the wings to keep her team's attacks flowing.
"We usually play with three in the middle," Corirossi said. "But (Jennison) switched it to two in the middle and put two on the outside, so we had more room to move around and pass and dribble."
That match-long pattern also included the Saints working the ball to the wings before sending it back toward the center of the field. But at some point after that point, nearly every move broke down.
St. Charles East is off to its best start since 2007 and the competitive matches continue this week with the St. Charles North match and then the opening weekend of play in the Naperville Invitational.
"We are pumped for this week," Corirossi said. "It's going to be tough, but we are definitely ready for it. Last year, we were a solid team. But this year, I feel like we are connecting more."
Under siege for most of the match, Kaneland's defense did not wilt, especially central defenders such as Delaney Stryczek and Sage Schlehofer.
"The sweeper was (Schlehofer) and she's only a freshman," Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. "She's good. We haven't given up a whole lot of goals this year. I think we've given up five goals this year."
Kaneland (3-3-1) plays Geneva on Monday. The Knights are enjoying playing strong area 3A schools this year.
"This is huge for us," Parillo said. "(Jennison) emailed me and said 'do you want to play?' We were honored. It says something about the program and where we're going to. A week later, Geneva contacted us and wanted to schedule a game too. It says something about where this program is at."
Still, Parillo knows his team is learning as much from matches such as Saturday's as the Knights struggled to put pressure on the visitors' goal.
"Is there a gap between us right now and St. Charles East?" Parillo asked rhetorically. "Yeah, obviously. We didn't create too many chances."
But if the Knights struggled against the Saints, Parillo knew he was happier playing this match than a number of others he could have scheduled.
"We have to challenge ourselves," Parillo said. "We can't just settle for playing the so-so teams. So great, what if we win 15-16 games and only lose one or two and then lose in the first round of the playoffs because we're not playing good quality competition? If they ask us to play them, we're going to play them. It's going to be beneficial to us to play them."
But with Ginther in goal, the Knights are always in matches. She tipped over a Rasmussen free kick 5 minutes into the second half and commanded her penalty area throughout the match.
"But (Ginther) once again played light's out," Parillo said. "It's too bad we don't have redshirt years in high school because I'd love to redshirt her and have her for a fifth year."