After a first half filled with near misses, Willows Academy (3-1-1) found the back of the net three times in a 3-0 victory Tuesday afternoon at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights.
Julie Snitzer fired in from close range three minutes after the break, and teammate Marilyn Prince doubled the Eagles' advantage 10 minutes later when her corner found the far inside netting.
"Except for our inability to finish all those chances we created, it was a pretty good day of soccer, with a very nice result for us," said Eagles coach Amy McMahon, whose club travels north on Thursday to meet Lake Forest Academy.
It was an attack-minded side which greeted a depleted Christian Liberty club that had just one extra player on its bench on Tuesday, as starters, Danielle Chaires, Annie Bennett and Mackenzie Karlin were all out for the Chargers' home opener.
"Our depth is going to be one of our concerns this season with just 15 on our roster, so when we're missing three from our starting lineup while playing our first game of the year not on field turf, things were going to be a little bit more difficult for us," said first-year Christian Liberty coach Aaron DeRidder, who saw his club fall to 1-2-0. "(Willows) is a very good team, but I have to believe we would have done better with everyone here. Despite being shorthanded, I thought the girls played hard all throughout, even though we obviously got a little tired at the end."
Chargers keeper Cassie Swiderek was a key figure for the hosts. The sophomore single-handedly kept her mates in the match with several quality saves against the Eagles, who created a handful of top-notch chances in close, only to see a fearless Swiderek answer.
With Prince and Darcy James providing plenty of pace, energy and unselfish play in the middle of the park for the Eagles, the visitors force the Chargers to defend for most of the afternoon.
"Marilyn and Darcy did a very good job of distributing, and winning balls all over the midfield for us today, and if they can continue to do so, it will make us a better team all the way around," said McMahon.
In one sequence, Snitzer, Bridget Walsh, Sarah Carter and Prince each had a good look on frame, but Swiderek met the challenge.
"Cassie has been very strong for us thus far in goal," said DeRidder. "We'd like to put her out as a field player, maybe along the back line. But with such a young team, we need her to help stabilize things along the back, along with Maddie (Bennett) who is a returning starter for us and obviously our leader back there."
The central defender was sharp in the tackle, winning several 50-50 challenges to give the Chargers a solid one-two punch along with Swiderek. But the duo could do nothing when Willows finally broke through, with the eventual game-winner in the 43rd minute.
Pascall played a lovely ball up the left side to Snitzer, whose quick touch inside gave her enough space and time to steer her shot just inside the back post.
The Prince goal off the corner at 53 minutes was executed very well by the junior. Later, Stephanie Sommers sent a nice ball into the box, and an unfortunate redirect by a Chargers defender gave the visitors an own goal at 75 minutes to end the scoring.
"We kind of changed things up a little in the second half by attacking more from the outside, and in doing so, I thought we created much better chances which led to our three second-half goals," said McMahon.
Led by Marta Brown, the Eagles kept the Chargers away from keeper Bethy Hunt, who recorded the shutout.
"We still need to work on our conditioning, and we also need to get healthy, but with 70 percent of our team freshmen, and 10 percent sophomores, we also need to just play more games together to figure things out, and get more comfortable playing as a team," said DeRidder.
The Chargers are on the road Thursday at Westminster Christian.