GENEVA – Joe Carli is Geneva’s “energy in the middle.”
A couple passes up and down the pitch can illustrate why. Carli, more often than not, is around the ball at his perch in the midfield.
And he’s a definite physical presence at that.
“He’s got an engine. I mean, I take him out for maybe 10 minutes, but I don’t think he prefers that,” Geneva coach Jason Bhatta said after Geneva’s 1-1 draw against St. Charles East on Tuesday. “He’d probably give the same effort for those extra 10 minutes there, but yeah, he wins everything.”
“We’re able to play only two in the midfield kind of because he’s that much of a presence,” Bhatta continued. “He can jump incredibly well. He gets hard into tackles. He has a little chip on his shoulder, so he offers everything.”
That physicality is simply a byproduct of Carli’s work in the offseason.
“I work hard. We all do as a team,” said Carli, a senior. “We play hard.”
Carli is in his third season on varsity. As a sophomore, he broke his arm about halfway through the season. He has been a mainstay for the Vikings (6-2-5, 5-2-4) ever since.
“[With technique] I’ve gotten a lot better over quarantine,” Carli said. “...It’s hard with no soccer for so long. You come back, you just got to play hard.”
The Saints took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a goal from Sebastian Carranza, but the Vikings answered with 12:31 remaining on a strike from sophomore forward Trent Giansanti.
The Saints (10-2-2, 7-2-2) had three magnificent chances as the second half waned that went for naught – including an aggressive sliding save from Vikings goalkeeper Hayden Vostal on a chance from Saints forward Sam Wade. Alejandro Mancera and Luca Avendano had the other potential chances, but Vostel turned them away to preserve the tie.
“We’re playing a lot better recently. I think today was no different, we just kind of adjusted to what [Geneva’s] style was, which was a little bit more direct and in the air,” St. Charles East coach Vince DiNuzzo said. “We didn’t really win that second ball, but our boys did a good job of winning the first ball. We didn’t finish a couple chances when we were up 1-0, and I think that was the difference in the game.”
“I think if we score those, it’s a much different game, but we have to be better in terms of finishing those chances. I was happy with the way our back line played today. I thought they played a lot better than they have in the past.”
The Vikings took down St. Charles North, who was previously undefeated in the DuKane Conference, on Saturday. Ryan Leake scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second half for the 1-0 victory.
“Leake is coming off a good sophomore season,” Bhatta said. “He was a little inconsistent his sophomore year on varsity, but he’s definitely grown. I knew that if we were going to have a good year, then Leake was going to have to take a next step. He played well.”
St. Charles East had won five in a row coming into Tuesday, scoring at least four goals in every game, since a loss to St. Charles North March 23. St. Charles East and St. Charles North play again Thursday.
“I think a big thing we noticed in the North game was our back line. Just dealing with the first ball out of the air was a big problem of ours,” Wade said. “Even in the earlier wins that we had, we kind of struggled defensively, so I think we’re finally kind of piecing together that back line. The North game just highlighted it and tonight, I feel like we did a pretty good job of it.”