ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles North girls soccer team was disappointed with how it handled a marquee conference showdown last week against a big rival, settling for a tie against St. Charles East on a night the North Stars were mostly outplayed.
The North Stars returned to their home field eight days later and demonstrated remarkable progress, dominating Geneva on Wednesday for a 4-1 win that clinched at least a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River title for the North Stars.
“We talked about coming out with a lot of energy in the East game but not placing the energy in the right way, maybe more like crazy energy,” North junior forward Hanna Durocher said. “I think tonight we were all just more focused knowing we have progress to make and knowing that we have the potential.”
North coach Ruth Vostal called it “80 minutes where we played, combined, connected, worked well as a unit.” The North Stars also netted some gorgeous goals, beginning with Durocher’s to open the scoring with 24:34 left in the first half.
Durocher dribbled through what appeared to be an impossible web of defensive congestion and found enough daylight to shoot one past Vikings goalkeeper Sam Hauser. Durocher didn’t know if she had sufficient room to operate, but with no offensive support on the play, she gave it a whirl.
“Initially, I didn’t think so but my momentum just kept me going through,” Durocher said. “I’ve been working on my touches lately so that helped also.”
Vostal loves seeing Durocher thrive.
“She is one of the hardest working, most passionate soccer players that I’ve coached, truly,” Vostal said. “Her love is soccer, and her foot skills, her ability to cut and go 1-v-1 in a tight area is one of the best that I’ve seen.”
North’s second goal with a little more than 8 minutes to go in the first half also required a top-notch individual effort, but this one was a picturesque strike from about 25 yards out as senior Alyssa Brandt curled it far post to Hauser’s left.
Brandt couldn’t have cracked it much better.
“Not really,” Brandt said. “I’ll take that one, without a doubt.”
Less than 90 seconds later, fellow senior Ashlyn Walter scored from close range to give North (11-3-1, 5-0-1 UEC River) a 3-0 lead on the stunned Vikings (8-4-1, 2-1 UEC River).
Geneva closed to within 3-1 on a Taylor Williams penalty kick with 18:24 to play in the second half but then allowed a final North tally on Sophie Pohl’s header off Walter’s assist with 8:58 to play.
The four goals Geneva yielded was a season high for a Vikings team that takes great pride in its defensive prowess.
Geneva was coming off a hard-fought, 2-1 win at rival Batavia on Tuesday, and a pair of key Vikings – Annie Waldoch and Molly Stanfa – played limited minuted with foot ailments, but Vikings coach Megan Owens would have liked a better response to that adversity.
“I think it was hard for us to show up after the type of intensity [Tuesday’s game] required,” Owens said. “You know, they’re high school kids. They’re not professional athletes. They just didn’t have a good first half, and that happens sometimes with kids. I think we played much better second half but we stressed that we’ve got to be able to be strong from the first whistle.”
Geneva will still have a say in the conference race. The Vikings are due to host St. Charles East on May 9, with the Saints needing a win to have a chance to tie North for the conference title.
The North Stars don’t intend to sweat that outcome or any others between now and regionals later this month.
“Ultimately our goal isn’t conference champions,” Brandt said. “That’s nice, but everything we do here, we’re getting ready for postseason. That’s really what this is all about.”
Junior goalkeeper Shelby Stitz made five saves for the North Stars.