FENTON • The St. Charles West boys soccer team played about as clean of a game as possible Friday, and the timing — a Class 2 state semifinal — was just about perfect.
The Warriors controlled most of the play and scored on a first-half penalty kick by senior forward Nick Schreiber to beat Pembroke Hill 1-0 for a spot in the state final for the first time in program history.
“The defense has done a great job all year, but they were really locked down today,” said Schreiber, whose goal was his 47th of the season. “They help make us a hard team to beat. If we score, they make it so hard to beat us.”
St. Charles West (25-1, No. 1 in STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings) built a fortress around senior goalkeeper Logan Lingle, who saved the one shot he faced.
The Warriors, in their first state appearance since finishing third in 2001, advanced to face John Burroughs (17-6-1) in the title game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Soccer Park with their first championship on the line.
“I really don't think this has set in yet,” Schreiber said. “This was great, but I would love to get a state championship.”
Lingle credited the defensive alignment for pushing aside Pembroke Hill (12-9) at every turn.
The trio of sophomore Darius DeCarolis, sophomore Sam Papin and senior Devin Emrick helped lead the way for the Warriors' 12th shutout.
“The guys back there play a very strong game, they're always talking, always working so well together,” Lingle said. “Darius, Sam and Devin, even in high stakes like this, work so well together and that makes everything easier for me.”
While defense was impregnable, St. Charles West's offense afforded itself chance after chance.
The Warriors had eight shots on the Raiders' net. While West failed to find the net in the run of play, Warriors coach Matt Dwyer praised the relentless effort.
“We had better chances and a penalty missed,” Dwyer said. “We just go out and grind it out. Sometimes, we play ugly soccer. Sometimes, it doesn't look pretty but we're just grinding it out and winning. Our goal is always to come out and apply pressure from the beginning and these guys did. They were relentless.”
Pembroke Hill senior keeper Campbell Robinson saved a penalty kick by Warriors senior midfielder Evan Eickhoff in the 56th minute. In total, Robinson made eight saves to keep Pembroke Hill in contention until the very end.
But in the 29th minute after a St. Charles West player was knocked down in the Pembroke Hill penalty area, Schreiber sent a rocket into the upper left corner for the game's only goal.
“I just go up there, look at the keeper and do whatever I want to do,” Schreiber said of the finish. “I look to see if he's jumpy or whatever, then I just put it in.”
Schreiber put four shots toward the Pembroke goal, with a team-high three going on net.
His 114 points lead the area.
“He's fantastic and he's a complete forward,” Dwyer said. “He's tall, he's fast and he's physical. He can score with both feet and he's just clinical. It takes keepers making spectacular saves —foot saves, hand saves — just to keep him out.”
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