Forget about the idea that the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title was on the line -- neither team was much interested in that.
But St. Charles East and St. Charles North were very interested in testing themselves against another strong opponent on Tuesday night when this year's crosstown meeting of the city's two girls soccer teams took place before the largest crowd in the area so far this season.
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"It's a crosstown rivalry where you know the opponents, where the coaches know the other players and all of that kind of thing, there's always that extra intensity." St. Charles North coach Ruth Vostal said. "We knew the first few minutes coming out, it was going to be a little messy. But we settled into it."
What figured to be a tightly-contested match proved to be just that and the only goal came 11:29 before halftime when Kelly Manski received the ball between Saints defenders, moved fractionally from left to right at the top of the penalty area and sent a shot over Saints keeper Kendra Sheehan into the net.
"It was exciting," Manski said. "But it was a fight the whole game. Both teams were fighting for it. That goal -- there were people all around trying to get any shot off."
Manski's goal separated two teams that each had only one loss entering Tuesday's match. And for the first 40 minutes, St. Charles East (9-2-1, 3-1 UEC River) had the majority of the scoring chances. After taking 10 minutes to settle into the match, Sam Lombardo hit a shot over the crossbar to signal the start of the Saints surge.
Shortly after, Anna Corirossi combined with Carly Pottle and Darcy Cunningham, with Cunningham forcing a save from Shelby Stitz. As the half neared its midpoint, Pottle shot over the crossbar and then the North Stars began to assert themselves.
"I thought, for the first 30 minutes, that I could only see one outcome coming," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "I thought we were fantastic. I thought we had the majority of the play and the majority of the possession and we were moving the ball nicely. We were looking good."
St. Charles North (10-1, 5-0) had already come close to scoring when an Alex Gage left wing cross deflected toward goal off the Saints' Allie Arvizu -- but Sheehan saved. Now Alyssa Brandt sent the ball to Elizabeth Parrilli, who shot over the goal.
To cap the attacking surge, Manski scored. Two minutes afterward, Gage forced a Sheehan save.
The second half started with St. Charles North's ascendant. Sophie Pohl had three shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes, forcing one save and sending two wide.
"I thought we had a ton of chances that should have been in the back of the net," Vostal said. "We hit wide or we were a second late. We've been working on finishing those chances and luckily we were able to get one from (Manski) early."
Against this, the Saints' best opportunity was a Pottle shot from the top of the penalty area that was blocked by the North Stars defense.
"In the second half, I think they came out the first 5-10 minutes uptempo and caught us on our heels a little bit," Jennison said. "But we got back into our rhythm and threw a heck of a lot at them. It just wasn't meant to be today."
The North Stars continued to press for a second goal and nearly got one with 9 minutes to play when Hanna Durocher fed Pohl, whose shot was cleared off the line by Clara Stoffel.
"I just sprinted back because I knew if they scored again, the game would have been over," Stoffel said. "So I ran back and, at first, I thought I was going to kick it in. Luckily it went past the goal. My heart was definitely racing."
The final goalmouth incident came with 4 minutes left, when a whipped-in corner kick from Cunningham forced Stitz to save with Saints attackers all around her.
The match continued a season-long defensive trend for St. Charles North, which has allowed only a penalty kick goal by Neuqua Valley in 11 matches.
"They were pretty tough," St. Charles North defender Kenzie Rose said of the Saints. "But overall, our team defense was great all around the field. Forwards, midfielders and backs, we played so well together."
But St. Charles East's defense has been solid this year as well. Through 12 matches, the Saints have recorded 8 shutouts.
"I think we played our hardest," Stoffel said. "We were ready for the game and we worked so hard for this. We worked so hard and it's so disappointing."