St. Charles North holds off Geneva
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Kelly Manski just wanted to put the ball on net.
She did much more than that.
Manski, a senior forward, delivered the game's only goal off a free kick from 23 yards out early in the second half to help lift St. Charles North (19-3-1) to a 1-0 victory over Geneva (15-9-1) in Friday night's Class 3A girls sectional soccer championship played at Hoffman Estates.
After junior forward Ashlyn Walter was tripped while trying to slip past a Viking defender, Manski was called upon to take the shot with teammates Alex Gage and Alyssa Brandt just in front of her.
"We talk and decide who wants to take it and who feels good about it," Manski said about free kick opportunities. "I set it (the ball) down just hoping I'd strike it well."
The shot barely eluded the outstretched arms of Geneva goalkeeper Samantha Hauser, landing in the upper left-hand corner of the net.
"I watched it all the way through," said Manski, who has developed a penchant for making game-turning plays for the North Stars, who earned their third sectional title in 4 years.
"We spent a practice the other day doing a couple different things (on free kicks)," said North Stars coach Ruth Vostal. "That was her spot.
"She's one kid I can count on all the time," added Vostal. "She's a kid that is extremely coachable. Her work rate is always 110 percent, and she's a kid whose work rate made her into an unbelievable player."
Geneva, which carried a 9-game winning streak into the match, didn't go away without a fight.
In fact, the Vikings had their share of scoring opportunities throughout the final 20 minutes -- perhaps the best chance coming when Molly Axen's header off a crossing feed from Megan Kolzow grazed off the top of the crossbar in the 73rd minute.
"They left it all out there," said Vikings coach Megan Owens. "You can't ask for any more. You can't coach heart and that's all this team has.
"Everyone counted us out. Everyone acted like because we had a few losses to some real strong teams that we weren't going to amount to anything this season -- and look how far we went."
Owens felt the game could have gone either way.
"I think both teams were very evenly matched," said Owens, whose team was knocked out of the postseason by the North Stars for the third time in 4 seasons. "In a game like this, it comes down to who makes the least mistakes. We made a mistake in the middle of the field and we gave them an opportunity.
"North is a great team," added Owens, "and we stayed with them every step of the way. We always end up playing them (in the postseason). Out of all those games, this was by far the most evenly matched one."
Vostal wasn't surprised with the Vikings' game effort.
"I know they've been playing great the second half of their season," said Vostal. "They have very talented players."
As do the North Stars, who received another solid defensive performance from sophomore goalkeeper Shelby Stitz, flanked by teammates Jenny Barr, Jorie Clawson, Megan O'Leary, and Kenzie Rose.
"I thought our back line was incredible," said Vostal. "They've been able to do that game after game."
"We found a way to put it away as a team," said Rose. "If one of us gets beat, there's always someone to recover."
With the win, the North Stars now prepare for Tuesday's supersectional battle against host Barrington, which defeated Rockford Boylan 3-0 Friday night.
For the seniors, it means continuing their season beyond Sunday's graduation ceremonies.
"No one wants the season to end," said Manski. "It's awesome to have a practice tomorrow (Saturday) with this same group of girls and try to extend it as long as possible."
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