DeKALB – St. Charles North captured its 11th consecutive girls soccer regional title on Saturday, and the North Stars insisted that little felt ho-hum.
All you had to do was glance at the alumni lining the fence at the end of the 3A DeKalb Regional final.
The feats might match the teams of the past, but the rosters are another story. Sure, the North Stars return a healthy core from last season's second-place state finisher. They also rely on girls who were holding IHSA hardware aloft for the first time after a 5-1 win against West Chicago.
"We have a lot of talent and we have a lot of people who know what it takes to get to the state games and all that kind of stuff," senior midfielder Alex Gage said. "So those players can help the new players progress along into the tougher and tougher games. And I think that's really important about this team."
North (17-3-1) advanced to face Conant in a Hoffman Estates Sectional semifinal at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The North Stars defeated the Cougars, 2-0, to open the season.
The North Stars have notched 12 other shutouts since then while cultivating an urgency and intensity that's present no matter the score.
Saturday's result might have been 4-1 if not for a resilient run and strike from Rachel Michieli, who responded to Maddie Aguilar's late goal by converting a Melissa Bronke feed with five minutes to play.
"We don't have to win by a certain number of goals. We know we just need one more than anybody else," North coach Ruth Vostal said. "So if someone scores, we know we can fight back and get another one. And we've been able to do that game after game. We don't like to give up a goal, but if we do, it's nice to see someone step up and score."
Gage provided an early lead just 4:24 into the match, getting a foot on a pass from Jorie Clawson, who had flipped an Alyssa Brandt corner kick to the back post.
Natalie Winkates, Brandt and Hanna Durocher scored over the next 27 minutes, as North harnessed its possession style and speed to create chances and a 4-0 halftime lead.
West Chicago (11-10-3) only countered sporadically. North goalkeeper Shelby Stitz made one save in the game's first 66:39 before backup Alexa Lievrouw, who conceded the goal, entered the game.
"It's hard for a goalkeeper to not get a ton of action," Stitz said, "but they still have to be able to mentally stay in it when they're not physically getting the action that they need. But it's easy to feel the energy from your team when they're fighting so hard for the whole 80 minutes.
"Of course, I run out after goal that they score and I congratulate the person, and it's a great feeling and it's easier for me to do that when I know my team is working so hard. So I just need to be able to repay them when the time comes."
Kelly Manski and Ashlyn Walter added assists for North, which now takes aim at its third sectional title in four seasons.