Soccer: Loomis rescues 'resilient' St. Charles East girls soccer in regional title win over Schaumburg

There was certainly a level of doubt creeping in.

The St. Charles East girls soccer team had experienced the highest of highs this season and, admittedly to coach Vince DiNuzzo, some very low lows - especially of late.

Despite winning its first 16 games of the season, the Saints faced a one-goal deficit at halftime in Friday night's regional championship match against Schaumburg, having lost three of its past five contests.

"There was some doubt," DiNuzzo said. "We've had a couple of these types of games lately where it seems like the ball just won't go in."

Fortunately for St. Charles East, Friday wasn't one of those nights. Mackenzie Loomis provided the spark her team needed as her header off a corner kick tied the game midway through the second half. It completely changed the momentum in a 2-1 victory Saints victory in the Class 3A Conant Regional championship.

The victory secured St. Charles East ninth consecutive regional title, excluding the 2020 season that teams did not play.

"We knew we were playing well and that 1-0 didn't mean anything to us," Loomis said. "I think we always have a target on our backs and that provides a lot of motivation for us. I think once we got that first one, we knew we had it in the bag. It was such a swing of emotions, but definitely happy to come out on top tonight."

Just three minutes after Loomis gave the Saints (19-3-0) the lead, Schaumburg felt St. Charles East's pressure again and attempted to clear a ball off its own goal line from Saints forward Tatum Smith.

Unfortunately for the Saxons, the ball deflected directly off a defender and into its own net for an own goal. Despite applying most of the pressure Friday night, that three-minute span felt especially rewarding as the senior group of Saints saw the minutes ticking off the clock potentially for the last time in their careers.

"I feel like we're always a very confident team," Saints senior defender Ella Stehman said. "I think going down a goal pushed us even more, just knowing it could be the last time we're on the field together. I think we're a resilient team and showed that tonight."

Schaumburg (8-8-1) was able to withstand several spurts of pressure from the Saints in the first half and took advantage of a loose ball that found the foot of Madison Schiola just before halftime.

The senior forward volleyed a ball from the top of the box and just found its way past Saints goalkeeper Sidney Lazenby to give the Saxons the halftime lead over the sectional's top seed.

"We knew we really couldn't run with [St. Charles East]," Schaumburg coach Greg Charvat said. "I thought we contained them well for as long as we could, but just ran out of gas there toward the end. We played about as well as we could have, but we just didn't have enough people to defend them when they started throwing players forward."

Saxons goalkeeper Natalie Hassmann finished with six saves and made a couple of point blank saves of Saints standout forward grace Williams to keep Schaumburg ahead at the time.

Lazenby finished with three saves of her own in the victory for the Saints, who advance to Tuesday's Class 3A West Chicago Sectional semifinals against the winner of Saturday morning's matchup between fellow DuKane Conference foes in Batavia and Wheaton North.

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