Maybe it's time to reassess the prevailing theory that St. Charles East has difficulty scoring goals.
For the second time in as many matches this postseason, the Saints scored five times, with Friday's goalfest securing a 5-2 victory over Wheaton Warrenville South in the West Chicago Regional title match.
"They came out flying," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "I'm so proud of the girls. This senior class, over the last four years, has been massive for us. It was an excellent win."
The victory is St. Charles East's 19th regional title, but the school's first since 2007. The Saints (15-4-5) advance to meet crosstown rival St. Charles North in Tuesday's 4:30 p.m. Conant Sectional semifinal. The Saints and North Stars tied 1-1 in their regular season meeting.
"It feels so great," St. Charles junior Darcy Cunningham said. "Since my freshman year, this has been my dream, to win a regional. It's great to get St. Charles East girls back on the map."
The Saints struck twice in the opening 5 minutes, when Rion Gaffney scored from the team's first attempt on goal and Cunningham scored from her team's next shot.
"It was great to come out with two goals in the first 4 minutes," Cunningham said. "We just got our lead and we went from there. They were the five-seed, so we weren't taking them lightly at all."
Grabbing such a decisive lead so quickly changed whatever shape the match might otherwise have taken. Certainly, Wheaton Warrenville South (11-9-1) had to regroup from a disadvantageous position.
"It gives you a lot of confidence to get ahead, especially in these big games," Cunningham said. "It helps you calm down and play the rest of the game."
A team that went through some scoring droughts this season, the Saints scored 10 times in the regional.
"It's a great time of the season to be goal hungry," Cunningham.
Through the middle of the first half, the Tigers struggled to gain possession and attack St. Charles East's goal.
"It throws out your game plan completely," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Guy Callipari said. "At some point, you're going to have to change it up. We weren't getting opportunities in the final third and we weren't getting numbers forward and they were winning everything in the 50-50 environment."
With most of the possession and all the chances, the Saints broke through again 4 minutes before halftime when Mallory Mollenhauer sent a right wing free kick into the penalty area and Cunningham scored at the left post.
"It was definitely shocking and a letdown to have them score in the first 5-10 minutes of the game," Wheaton Warrenville South senior Caroline Holmes said. "Our heads went down as soon as it happened because we felt we were out of the game. After our halftime talk and discussing come changes, we started doing some things."
Any hope of a second half reversal of each team's fortunes ended quickly. St. Charles East attacked from the opening kickoff. First Kelli Santo Paolo forced a save from Tigers keeper Abbey Fuster. Then Amanda Hilton shot over the crossbar from a Sophie Jendrzeczyk pass.
Those players were all involved when the Saints added their fourth goal -- with Santo Paolo passing top Hilton, whose lead pass into the penalty area was met by Jendrzeczyk, who scored in only the fourth minute of the second half.
"We've had a little adversity with (scoring), trying to find the connection," Jennison said. "At the moment, it's clicking. If you're going to do it at any one time of the season, it may as well be this week. We've been doing the right things all along, and it's good to see them getting a reward for all the hard work they've been putting in."
St. Charles East added its fifth goal midway through the half when a Cunningham free kick broke to Hilton in the penalty area and Hilton scored.
Wheaton Warrenville South rallied and scored both its goals on Alexis Jakuszewski penalty kicks.
Wheaton Warrenville South graduates five seniors from this year's team, and Callipari spent time discussing with them their impact on the program before the team left the field.
"I think it's probably the youngest team we've ever had at the varsity level," Callipari said.
"I congratulated the senior group about the fact that their legacy will be defined by what this group will do over the next few years. They established a foundation for them."
Holmes, Fuster, Courtney Christensen, Alex Immekus and Marina Tolczyk were the Tigers' seniors.
"I feel like this team has already established itself as a really big family and it will continue in the next few year," Holmes said. "I feel that even though we didn't go far in playoffs, in the next years, because the team is so young, we'll be able to get farther in playoffs."