Opponents are quickly learning that St. Charles East's boys soccer team can win games in a variety of ways with a variety of players.
Senior forward Dan DiLeonardi recorded his second hat trick of the young season with plenty of help from his teammates during the Saints' 5-1 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over Bartlett Thursday night in St. Charles.
DiLeonardi received an assist from the Hawks on the Saints' first goal just 3 minutes and 16 seconds into the action.
After a defensive giveaway deep in the Hawks' end, an opportunistic DiLeonardi converted the breakaway attempt to jump-start the Saints' attack.
"The last thing you want to do is give goals away to good teams," said Bartlett coach Ben Beary. "And St. Charles East is definitely a good team."
"They made a mistake in the back and from there we didn't look back," said DiLeonardi. "We just kept pressing."
A little more than 10 minutes later, DiLeonardi added his second goal of the game off a picture-perfect feed from junior midfielder Taylor Ortiz to make it 2-0.
"My teammates are finding good positions to slap the ball through and I'm just using my speed to take advantage of the defense," said DiLeonardi, who has already scored 10 goals in 7 games for the Saints (6-0-1).
"It's because of the quality (passes) that we feed him with," said Saints coach Paul Jennison. "I know a lot of strikers in the state who would be extremely excited to get some of the service that he gets."
Juniors Zach Manibog and Jarod Brown added first-half goals as the Saints grabbed a 4-0 lead at the break.
"Obviously not the first 40 minutes we wanted to play but we don't get to replay it," admitted Beary.
DiLeonardi completed his hat trick 10 minutes into the second half before Bartlett's Tony Estanislao snapped the Saints' shutout bid 22 seconds later.
St. Charles East could have scored a few more goals if it weren't for the second-half effort of Hawks goalkeeper Andrew Nowak, who thwarted several point-blank opportunities.
"He made three saves that were outstanding," Jennison said of Nowak. "Those were top-drawer saves."
"This was his first varsity start and he really stepped up big in the second half," Beary said of Nowak. "It was a good confidence builder for him."
Senior Mike Novotny made 4 saves for the Saints, who have picked up where they left off a year ago when they finished 20-3-1 and advanced to the supersectional.
"We've got chemistry," said Jennison. "This group has got something going on. Of course, I think there are many, many things we can clean up as well. I certainly don't think we're anywhere near where we can be -- and that's in no way taking away from their performance.
"We're only seven games into the season. There are going to be a lot of things happening between now and the end of the season but I think we're in a very good spot."
After facing Neuqua Valley (twice), Benet and St. Charles East, Bartlett (0-4-1) is still searching for its first win.
"I like our schedule to be top-heavy," said Beary. "It gives us exactly what we need to work on, and these are teams we're going to see again in the playoffs."