HOFFMAN ESTATES – The St. Charles North girls soccer team failed to score in the flow of play in either of its IHSA Class 3A Hoffman Estates Sectional matches.
Even so, the North Stars are marching on by virtue of terrific defense and the ability to cash in on just enough of their dead-ball opportunities.
After a corner kick goal netted North a double-overtime win in its sectional semifinal, North Stars senior Kelly Manski scored on a free kick early in the second half of Friday’s 1-0 win against Geneva in the sectional championship match.
Are set pieces becoming North’s offensive sweet spot?
“Not always, but we just know that we have to take advantage of them when we have them,” Manski said.
The North Stars advance to Tuesday’s Barrington Supersectional against the host Fillies. North beat Barrington, 1-0, in the same supersectional last season en route to a second-place state finish.
On the subject of postseason history, Geneva can’t seem to get out of North’s way.
The seventh-seeded Vikings (15-9-1) played the top-seeded North Stars (19-3-1) especially tough this time around.
“We’ve had a lot of success over the past few years, and we get overshadowed by North a lot,” Geneva coach Megan Owens said. “We always end up playing them [in the postseason]. Let’s be honest, I think aside from one year, it’s always been them that has ended our season, and of all those games, this was by far the most evenly matched one. And the awesome thing is we only graduate three and we bring back 17 plus an ACL recovery.”
After a scoreless first half, North capitalized on the free kick junior forward Ashlyn Walter created after being jostled to the ground by Vikings junior Annie Waldoch.
From just outside the box, Manski rifled the free kick past Vikings junior Sam Hauser for the 1-0 edge with 33:24 to play in the second half.
Manski, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, continued what has been a memorable senior season, despite drawing a late yellow card for not giving the Vikings enough space to set up a free kick.
“She’s one kid I can count on all the time,” North coach Ruth Vostal said.
The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Geneva, which generated some quality chances in the second half as the Vikings sought a tying goal.
Molly Axen’s header appeared to nick the crossbar with about 8 minutes to play in the half, and sophomore defender Megan Kozlow took a pair of free kicks from dangerous positions that were off the mark.
Vostal said she wasn’t surprised the North Stars – who beat Geneva, 2-0, during the regular season – had an even tighter match on Friday.
“Playing another Tri-Cities team, we both knew the style of each other pretty well,” Vostal said. “I know they’ve been playing great in the second half of their season and they have very talented players and seniors just like everybody does, where we knew it would be a battle.”
One of those seniors is Iowa-bound forward Amanda Lulek, who naturally commanded plenty of attention from North.
“She’s very fast, I play club with her, and she’s an awesome player,” North midfielder Alex Gage said. “We knew we had to stay on her, and I think Megan (O’Leary) did a great job of covering the back line and clearing balls out of there. We knew they were a strong side and we could not come lacking in talent. We had to come out hard and fight.”
Owens was proud that her team had North’s full attention all the way through.
“You can’t coach heart, and that’s all this team has is heart,” Owens said. “Everyone counted us out, everyone acted like because we had a few losses to really strong teams that we weren’t going to amount to anything this season, and look at how far we went.
“And to be honest … I thought both teams were very evenly matched, and it comes down to who makes the least mistakes.”
North goalkeeper Shelby Stitz made three saves.