ST. CHARLES – Despite varying offensive setups, swift attacking, and aggressive defending, the St. Charles North boys soccer team was unable to hold off Neuqua Valley, dropping its opening-night match, 3-1, Tuesday.
Neuqua Valley applied pressure early, forcing senior goalkeeper and captain Billy Larsen to make two lunging saves within the first 15 minutes. The North Stars gained momentum after Larsen’s stout goalkeeping, turning several intercepted passes into scoring opportunities. North’s Phillip LeGare, forward and senior captain, led the offensive charge with his high energy and feel for the defense.
“Me and [senior forward Adam Hoffman] try to work together in that I play off of him, he plays off of me,” LeGare said. “We look for our center-mids to look over the top, you know, since me and Adam are pretty fast [and] we can beat defenders.”
Neuqua struck first on an Austin Flatt goal with 1:54 left in the first half, set up by an intercepted pass near North’s box.
Jake Loncar, a senior forward for the Wildcats, credited the team’s sharp distribution for its success.
“The communication was good, and we connected on a lot of good passes,” Loncar said.
Numerous possession changes marked the first 20 minutes of the second half until Loncar scored a goal after winning a battle for the ball near the net.
Despite opportunities being available, the North Stars were unable to punch in goals, with the lone exception of a LeGare goal midway through the second half.
“We’re definitely gonna work on finishing – we had trouble with that tonight,” LeGare said.
Junior Reed Kurtenbach’s goal off of a corner kick rounded out Neuqua Valley’s scoring with 13 minutes left in the match.
St. Charles North coach Eric Willson was impressed with the North Stars’ energy out of the gates, and he’s optimistic about their Upstate Eight Conference River opener Thursday against Elgin.
“We’ve been spending all summer, all preseason, playing against basically ourselves with the exception of a few exhibition games,” Willson said. “Nothing is like the regular season. We were certainly excited, we just didn’t get the results we were looking for.”
“The outlook is promising,” he added. “It’s a group of guys that I’d say, well [for] the first time in the while, we’ve got a lot of chemistry on this team and I really believe that can go a long way and translate into some wins.”