BATAVIA – The Batavia girls soccer team hadn’t been exposed to anything quite like what St. Charles North brings to the table, and Bulldogs coach Mark Gianfrancesco wanted as many of his players as possible to share the experience.
After giving freshman reserve Rachel Reinecke a short-lived taste of the action, Gianfrancesco sought some instant feedback.
“I asked her when she came out, ‘Pretty physical, pretty fast?’ She was like ‘Yeah,’ ” Gianfrancesco recalled with a smile.
The North Stars continued to earn admirers Thursday night, knocking off Batavia, 2-0, in Upstate Eight Conference River play. North won at Geneva by the same score on Tuesday, and the defending Class 3A state runners-up have yielded only one goal through 10 matches, a penalty kick in a 1-0 loss to Neuqua Valley.
Playing on a damp, chilly night, North (9-1, 4-0 UEC River) remained as close to airtight as a team can be less than a month into the season.
“It helped that the field was incredibly narrow in that we were able to try a couple of different formations in the back, but that back line has been solid – mentally, physically,” North coach Ruth Vostal said. “I thought the first half we weren’t doing as well, honestly, in the back. We weren’t possessing after we collected it. But I thought the second half we stepped it up, did much better.”
The Bulldogs (4-2-2, 1-2 UEC River) were unable to muster a shot on goal all night.
“They’re tough,” Gianfrancesco said. “They go up, they win every ball in the air. I thought we were at least going up and challenging with them, but we can stop some of that, too. On some of the set plays, why wait for them to get back? Play it quick, play at the feet.”
The North Stars started the match with only three defenders – Kenzie Rose, Jenny Barr and Megan O’Leary – as they sought to strike quickly against Batavia.
It took a bit longer than Vostal had hoped, but with 24:05 to play in the first half, Kelly Manski and Alyssa Brandt combined on a gorgeous goal.
Vostal praised Manski’s instincts for noticing that Batavia’s defenders were sucked toward the near post, and Manski uncorked an on-target, far-post delivery to Brandt, who volleyed the ball out of the air and past Bulldogs goalkeeper Jenny Welday.
“We’ve been saying make somebody on the team look good, so if I play a pass, even if it’s a bad one, I’m going to trap it really awesome to make that pass look better,” Vostal said. “So we keep saying make somebody else look good, and I think Kelly played a great ball. Alyssa was composed enough to just volley it in. Oftentimes you see those just going over the top.”
Added Brandt: “Most of my finishes generally come off of the ground, so getting it out of the air is definitely something a little bit different.”
North maintained a 1-0 lead through halftime. Considering how sharp the North Stars have been defensively, the outcome was virtually sealed early in the second half when sophomore Elizabeth Parrilli headed one just inside the post past Batavia second-half goalkeeper Nicki Seiton. Ashlyn Walter was credited with the assist as North took a 2-0 lead.
From there, the North Stars continued to keep the clamps on Batavia, setting up a crosstown clash Tuesday against St. Charles East that likely will determine the UEC River championship.
For anyone playing the North Stars, simply scoring a goal, let alone winning, has proven to be a tall order.
“I think it’s definitely awesome that our defense and all the way from the forwards into the backs have been able to weather their storm and not allow any goals yet this season,” North midfielder Jorie Clawson said. “I think it’s awesome. It’s a good accomplishment.”