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McNeil’s hard work, character pay off in big senior season

O’Fallon Christian senior forward Luke McNeil has flourished on the soccer field for the Eagles this fall. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

O’Fallon Christian senior forward Luke McNeil scored just 13 goals as a junior.

Then, six seniors graduated from the 2017 club and the offensive load fell to McNeil. He has more than delivered.

McNeil entered the regular season finale on Thursday, Oct. 18 against Lutheran St. Charles with a team-leading 29 goals and 14 assists making him ninth in the area in scoring. This seaso, he has helped the Eagles win eight of the teams last nine games to finish the regular season at 11-10.

“Luke created a lot of goals last year when he was playing on the wing so he has moved up top or in the middle and he’s gotten goals and he’s done really great,” O’Fallon Christian coach Luke Tanner said.

McNeil has had the scoring touch throughout his career at O’Fallon Christian but it was some old-school, hard work with an emphasis on finishing around the goal that has allowed him to flourish offensively this fall.

“We worked a lot in practices has on finishing [around the goal] and that has been helping me,” McNeil said.

Another factor that has allowed McNeil to be so strong near the goal is playing up top with senior forward Austin McNeil and sophomore forward Chase Heath.

“Austin, he’s my cousin and I have known him since I was little. Chase, I’ve played with his since my freshman year,” McNeil said. “We’re good friends off the field, too, and that helps.”

The pair has 26 goals and 17 assists. Along with McNeil, they  have given the Eagles a potent front line that can score in bunches any time during a game.

“It helps when I have a good chance with just me and the goalie – when I can just pass it off and Chase can take that goalie out of [the box],” McNeil said. “When you get those streaks where you can score two or three goals in 10 minutes, it just lifts the whole team.”

Tanner believes the biggest factor that allowed McNeil to have an outstanding finish to his time at O’Fallon Christian is his work ethic and character.

“Luke’s a special guy with a tremendous character and it shows on and off the field,” Tanner said. “He always has an end result, an end product and is a team player out and out.”

McNeil will head off to college next fall and is interested in attending the University of Illinois and majoring in computer science or engineering.

Before that happens, he and the Eagles will look to get a win in the Class 2, District 7 tournament and advance on Oct. 23.

“Winfield is the second seed and the last time we played them we did pretty good, so hopefully it can carry over,” McNeil said.

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