According to forward Darcy Cunningham, the word "legacy" was a term the St. Charles East girls soccer team used as far back as two years ago.
The Fighting Saints wanted to not only defend the fact they won 8 state cham pionships in the 1990s and their orange and black were the colors of soccer royalty during that time, they want to relive it and assume the throne again.
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After East's 2-0 shutout over Huntley in the Class 3A Lake Park supersectional Tuesday, the Saints (18-4-2) are heading back to the state finals for the first time since 2007.
"Any chance you get at going down to state is going to elevate your program's view in the soccer community and I'd like to think we've done something in that aspect," Saints' coach Paul Jennison said. "We're going down there to win it. Everyone has an equal shot down there, we know there's some quality opposition, there's no doubt it's going to be tough but we've gotten this far and we just want to keep going and enjoy every moment we have had together."
East will get a chance to rekindle its past glory against Lincoln-Way North Friday at 5 p.m. at North Central College in Naperville.
Midfielder Rion Gaffney and forward Darcy Cunningham scored second-half goals after a scoreless first and keeper Kendra Sheehan managed 3 saves to turn back the Red Raiders (19-7), who were in their first supersectional appearance.
"I cannot believe we've made it this far, it wouldn't have happened without my team and all the teamwork and all the effort we've put in as a group. I couldn't be more proud of my team," Gaffney said. "We just had that extra push, we just wanted it more and we definitely earned it."
Huntley had no answer for the Saints' defense, midfield, their counterattack that just kept pushing. The Saints had a 13-2 shot advantage, controlled possession throughout and allowed tight spacing.
"It wasn't the defense, it was their midfield," Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. "We made an adjustment in the first half because their midfield was so strong, we changed to a 3-4-2-1 and we changed the momentum of the game but we got one up top, they're dropping three deep and tight and we just couldn't build off it. Their defense is good but it comes from their midfield. (Amanda Hilton), she's a special player and she's surrounded by good players."
And those would be Gaffney, Cunningham and Kelli Santo Paulo. After a brilliant diving save by Huntley keeper Jessica Galason forced the ball to flirt with the plane for several yards, Rachel Zobott's clear pinballed in front of the goal where it then landed in front of Gaffney, whose laser into the back of the net for the essential game-winner in the 51st minute gave East all the momentum.
"It was hitting off everybody, going in all different directions," Gaffney said. "The ball was bouncing toward me and I struck it with my right foot in the upper left corner. I felt it. Right as I struck the ball I knew it was going in."
Sixteen minutes later, Santo Paulo scorched a cross from the right of the box to a cutting Cunningham 5 yards from the net for the header and a 2-goal lead.
"Our midfielders did a great job of getting it wide," Cunningham said. "We're great at playing through the channels and getting crosses off and Kelli made a picture-perfect cross to me and it was an easy, easy header."
Huntley's passing was off and the Raiders put just a single shot on goal in the second half, as East clogged any sort of rush up the field. The Saints have now amassed a 34-6 shot advantage in their last two games.
"The second you give them a chance to give spacing to get a shot it's a dangerous situation, you never know what could happen," East defender Mallory Mollenhauer said. "It's amazing to stop teams -- especially (Huntley) -- with their shutouts (19) and the past 18 games they have won. It's a just a good feeling to stop them from scoring. Yhey had minimal chances just like our last game (against Conant)."
Huntley ends its season with the school's first sectional crown and plenty to be happy about.
"It was a really good feeling to win sectionals," Zobott said. "We didn't just want to stick with that, we wanted to go farther. We had a huge milestone in Huntley history so that was good."