ST. CHARLES – The biggest goal of the regular season for the St. Charles North girls soccer team was scored by, arguably, the North Stars’ most improved player this season.
And Kelly Manski was pretty darn good last year.
Manski, a senior midfielder and Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, converted a superb individual move for the lone score of Tuesday night’s 1-0 North Stars victory against host St. Charles East.
The win against the only other team that was unbeaten in conference play almost certainly will give the North Stars (10-1, 5-0 UEC River) this year’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division outright championship.
Manski, collecting a feed from sophomore Elizabeth Parrilli near the top of the box, maneuvered deftly to her right and deposited a high shot past East goalkeeper Kendra Sheehan with 11:29 left in the first half.
“There wasn’t a lot of room,” Manski said. “There were a couple of defenders, I just did a cut to the side and took the shot.”
Manski couldn’t see the ball flutter in because of the traffic in the box. North Stars defender Kenzie Rose had a much better vantage point, and gushed about the latest highlight of what has been a superb senior season so far for Manski.
“She has been doing a phenomenal job,” Rose said. “She has been getting up and down, helping us everywhere. She’s on one side of the field, and the next minute, she’s on the other side of the field. She’s doing a great job this year.”
Disappointed as the Saints (9-2-1, 3-1 UEC River) were, East coach Paul Jennison came away encouraged by his team’s play, particularly the first chunk of the opening half, in which the Saints made inroads against the North Stars’ vaunted defense but failed to finish.
Jennison said his team “threw a lot at them.”
“I thought, to be honest, the first 30 minutes, I could really only see one outcome coming,” Jennison said. “I thought we looked fantastic. I thought we had the majority of the play, the majority of the possession, we were moving the ball nicely, we created a couple of chances. We looked good.
“It was just one of them, unfortunately, we gave up the one shot, she put it in, and then we were playing catch-up. We know they’re a physical team. We know they’re tough.”
Towering North forward Sophie Pohl was on the verge of putting the match away with about 9 minutes to play in the second half. With Sheehan momentarily out of position, Pohl appeared to have an open net with which to tack on a second goal but East senior defender Clara Stoffel booted Pohl’s shot off-line.
“I had a heart attack,” Stoffel said. “I just sprinted back because I knew if they had scored again the game would have been absolutely over. I ran back and at first I thought I was going to kick it in, but luckily it went past the goal. My heart was definitely racing.”
Pohl turned in one of her most active games for the North Stars. She picked up a yellow card for a shove during the increasingly physical second half but North coach Ruth Vostal was more struck by the numerous scoring chances Pohl produced.
“We knew they were going to push up,” Vostal said of East’s defense. “Unfortunately [Pohl] didn’t get one, but that’s more shooting than Sophie’s done in one game in a long time, so that’s what we were happy with.”
North goalkeeper Shelby Stitz was credited with three saves. One of those came in the first half after Saints sophomore Darcy Cunningham was unable to cash in after a nifty passing combination from Anna Corirossi to Carly Pottle to Cunningham.
It was a night of offensive frustration for most girls on the field – aside from Manski.
“Even before the game I said to [North assistant coach Annie Lauterer], I’m like, ‘She’s going to get one,’ “ Vostal said of Manski. “Lauterer was saying ‘We didn’t work really hard on that one play, it didn’t look great,’ but Kelly worked hard, and she was the one who came out with it. She’s been coming up big.”
The North Stars, who have given up only one goal all season, on a penalty kick, can clinch the conference title outright with a win next Tuesday against visiting Streamwood.
Postseason pairings for girls soccer are due next week, and the North Stars and Saints are both ticketed for the 3A Hoffman Estates Sectional – a fact of which Jennison is well aware.
“I’m very confident we’ll see them in the postseason,” Jennison said. “I’m almost positive about it.”