Through the early portions of the season, St. Charles North's girls soccer team has led a kind of dual existence. Practices have taken place indoors, on a gym floor, with something less than a full team being involved.
Games, however, have given the North Stars their opportunity to compete outdoors in 11-on-11 situations. While better weather will bring an end to indoor training, one thing that's still taking place is the general improvement of the squad, which defeated Batavia 4-0 on Monday.
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"Combining is still going to take some time," St. Charles North coach Ruth Vostal said. "That's what we could see today. We got a little better, especially in the second half."
St. Charles North (3-1, 2-0 Upstate Eight River) scored a pair of goals in each half despite Batavia (2-4-1, 0-1) having an edge in possession in each half.
Sophie Pohl opened the scoring with a second-effort goal 12 minutes into the match. Pohl was credited with the North Stars second goal when an Alyssa Brandt pass from the left was touched toward goal by Pohl, but eventually was put into the net by a Batavia defender with 1 minute left in the half.
"I thought the first two goals were hard-nosed scrappy goals, and there's nothing wrong with those, especially when you're trying to find your feet and get comfortable as a team," Vostal said.
While all areas of the field have taken time to gel this season for Vostal's team, offensive combinations always take longer for all teams because of the passing and timing involved. The North Stars looked fluid at times on Monday.
"Each time we get out there, we're figuring our runs better," Pohl said. "We've only played outside a few times. Definitely up top and in the midfield, we're getting more chemistry."
Brandt provided the assist on Taylor Sypien's goal 14 minutes into the second half when she saved the ball from going out of bounds, sending a pass back into the center of the penalty area as she fell to the ground.
Brandt scored the final goal of the match with a free kick just outside the penalty area at the midpoint of the second half.
The North Stars excelled in two areas in the match. One was taking advantage of Batavia mistakes. Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco was able to point to a breakdown on each play leading to the goals.
"Take those four goals out and we dominated possession and we pressed their back line -- I thought we looked pretty good," Gianfrancesco said. "We just gave up four very bad goals. We served it up."
The area in which the North Stars dominated was in the small things, the "hustle plays" such as Brandt's which led to the third goal. Taken individually, none of these small bits of extra effort add to much, but over 80 minutes, the accumulation was large.
"It's the little things that can be the fine line between getting a goal and getting that one goal that you need to win, or getting a tie or knowing you could have played better," Brandt said. "Those things definitely do matter on the field. One thing you definitely learn here is that you have to work hard and you've got to fight for every ball -- even the ones that you think are going to go out."
Batavia brought plenty to the match, especially in the early portions of the second half when Mackenzie Foster had a strong left-to-right shot and a Megan McEachern corner kick was headed toward goal by Karina Rosales and North Stars keeper Shelby Stitz saved.
"I thought we played very well," Gianfrancesco said. "We knocked it around. Obviously after the fourth goal, my girls were a little dejected and (St. Charles North) had a little more energy. But we played very well until then."