Sometimes they had three players playing in defense, other times it was four. Whatever the setup, St. Charles North's back line was impossible to break down on Thursday night.
And that's how it's been most of the season. The North Stars have allowed one goal in their first 10 matches while tallying 38 themselves.
Contact information ( * required )
Numbers like that usually make for successful teams, and Ruth Vostal's squad is 9-1 following Thursday's 2-0 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory at Batavia.
"It helped that the field was incredibly narrow," Vostal said. "We were able to try a couple of different formations in the back. But that back line has been solid mentally and physically."
Defense is always a team effort in soccer, and the North Stars' midfielders drop back to provide cover for the defense. But the back line itself failed to bend, let alone break over 80 minutes against the Bulldogs.
"I think our defense has been working really well together," St. Charles North senior defender Jorie Clawson said. "We cover for each other really well. It's not just our backs. It's from the forward on back -- we play really good team defense, and that's a key aspect in allowing one goal all season."
The North Stars can score goals too. Even taking away three blowout wins where 26 goals were scored, the team is averaging almost 2 goals per match.
Thursday, Alyssa Brandt opened the scoring when she volleyed in a Kelly Manski left wing cross in the 16th minute of play.
"I saw that the ball had gone out to (Manski)," Brandt said. "When I saw the cross, I knew I was unmarked. I saw Natalie (Winkates) go up for it. No one else was around me. It went over (Winkates) and it went over two defenders and all I had to do was put it in the back of the net."
Brandt may have said "all I had to do" -- but the goal required a high degree of skill.
"It feels good," Brandt said. "I've missed a few in the past and it's nice to come out and put one away."
Elizabeth Parrilli doubled the lead in the sixth minute of the second half when she headed in a ball that wasn't cleared by Batavia's defense.
"We're trying her in a couple of different spots," Vostal said. "She's a great distributor. So we're trying to get her a little more offensive. She happened to be in the right spot at the right time. We've been working on her heading, so that was nice for her to get one."
The scoreline and the offensive struggles may have made it seem as though Batavia (4-2-2, 1-2) was overrun in the contest -- but the reality was far different. The Bulldogs did struggle to get offensive chances, but they also stood toe-to-toe in the midfield and in defense.
"I think they were probably the most physical team we've played and it's good for our girls to see that," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "I think when we were composed on the ball, you saw in the second half some stuff starting to work. In the first half, I think we were just panicking."
Facing a team with such a physical presence, Batavia brought its own physical presence. The central part of the field was crowded with players, but strong -- and fair -- tackles flew in from players of both teams.
"We didn't shy away their physicality, which they have," Gianfrancesco said. "They're tough. They go up and they win every ball in the air. I thought we were at least going up and challenging them for it too."