St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison has a favorite cliché, "If you don't concede a goal, you cannot lose."
While it might be common sense, what isn't common is the defensive play of St. Charles East senior Kevin Heinrich.
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He's led the Saints to a remarkable regular season, has them poised for a second straight sectional title, and knocking on the door of a potential trip to state. Quite a season for a player who returned from a bad injury just 12 months ago.
As the defensive leader of the Saints, as a tri-captain, and as someone Jennison has been able to count on regularly to ensure the Saints are always in position to win, Heinrich has been named the honorary captain of the 2013 Tri-Cities All-Area Boys Soccer Team, becoming the second straight St. Charles East defender to claim the top honor (Michael Macek in 2012).
"He's not a screamer or a shouter, but a very calm and soothing influence to his teammates," Jennison said. "With losing (Michael) Macek, we needed someone to step up and he has. He's been fantastic."
Such brilliance has been part of the Saints season since they started in August.
Through Oct. 31, St. Charles East has a 20-1-4 record with its lone loss coming to Metea Valley in the regular season finale.
The Saints have recorded 16 shutouts. To put that in local perspective, they've got six more shutouts then Geneva and St. Charles North combined for overall team wins (10).
Or, how's about this one: the Saints have only allowed 15 goals in 25 games for a 0.60 GAA. Heinrich's teammate Daniel DeLeonardi has outscored his team's opponents, 24-15.
"As you know we're a very proud group that likes to play defense and push the ball forward," Jennison said. "He and the lads have been so impressive back there and take away the pressure from the forwards who know they have time to make things happen and don't have to worry about having a bad game."
Heinrich was promoted to the varsity team as a sophomore and looked to be a big contributor last year before heartbreak came at Streamwood. Starting at left-back, he broke his clavicle and the Saints fell to Streamwood, 1-0.
It was a horrific injury and Heinrich's teammates were shaken pretty badly by it. He would miss the rest of the regular season before returning during sectional play.
"It really was unfortunate to get hurt like that and know there wasn't anything I could do other than cheer on my teammates," he said. "Now with it being senior year I know we don't have much more time here. I mean, I play year round, but there's only a little more time of wearing this uniform here."
The Saints rallied around their fallen teammates last season. Now he's the central figure, making sure no teams rally against them. In addition to their overall dominance in winning the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, the Saints have shown their Tri-Cities neighbors that they're the top team in the area, and by far.
The Saints have beaten Batavia, Geneva and Marmion, as well as St. Charles North, twice, outscoring the schools 14-1 in five games, with the lone goal coming from the Cadets with under 10 minutes remaining and the Saints on cruise control.
While he might not be yelling on the field, he is constantly communicating with his teammates, keeping them focused and on top of their game.
"You're going to make mistakes, that happens in sports, but it's avoiding the simple mistakes and learning from them so they don't happen again," he said.
"Our parents will videotape the games and we'll watch them to see how we can get better. All season long we've just tried to stay disciplined and play our game."
While he's contributed a bit to the scoring column, it's keeping the other sheet blank that Heinrich enjoys most.
"I like being able to read the game well and to listen and work with my two central minds," he said. "You always have to be on your toes and know where to go and to read the other team."
While a state title is one of Heinrich's goals this November, he anticipates taking his cleats to college, although he hasn't made a decision on where he'll play. He's been playing competitively since he was 9-years-old and doesn't anticipate his love of the game will dissipate anytime soon.
"I made the A team at Campton United when I was in sixth grade and have been focusing on soccer year round since then," he said. "I love the game. I've looked at a couple schools but nothing's for sure yet. Right now, I'm just waiting for my next game."
And perhaps get shutout No. 17.