Shutouts don't come easily in girls soccer, especially against quality teams like Geneva.
Friday's 2-0 Naperville North victory against the visiting Vikings (7-2-1) not only secured first place in Group C of the Naperville Invitational for the Huskies, it also gave their young defense a huge confidence boost.
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"It feels great," Huskies goalkeeper Fiona Baenziger said. "I know the team's really excited because we had kind of a rough start. We're really getting back into the swing of things. No one really expected us to go this far. We kind of surprised ourselves. It makes us know we're more than capable."
Naperville North defeated a strong Lyons Twp. squad 3-2 on Thursday, giving the Huskies wins over both opponents in the three-team group. Geneva meets Lyons Twp. at 10 a.m. Saturday in the group finale. The Huskies move on to the tournament quarterfinals.
The victory also gives the Huskies a winning record, 5-4-2.
"When you start to win a little bit, it becomes contagious," Huskies coach Steve Goletz said. "... We looked at this tournament as a fresh start, and it's been very good for us. We're very fortunate to be advancing out of the group."
Geneva coach Megan Owens was just as happy with the quality her team showed against the two-time defending state champion.
"To be honest I think we played awesome," Owens said. "We created a lot. We didn't always get a shot off, but we were in their half more than they were in ours. They didn't really get a lot of opportunities on goal in that first half. The second goal, we were counterattacking, we kind of got caught, which happens at the end of the game. We were going for the tie, we were going to equalize. It didn't matter at that point if they scored again."
The first goal came in the 24th minute when junior Olivia Stapleton headed in an Abby Mangefrida corner kick.
"Olivia is somebody who was on our JV1 team last year and has come in this year and really been phenomenal, just in winning balls," Goletz said. "To have two goals in two games, to have two game-winners is awesome. I can't be happier for her."
The Huskies put the game away in the 76th minute, Abbie Boswell finding her third goal of the season thanks to a Cassie Nelson assist.
But the shutout was equally important for a back line that completely turned over from last season. Junior Jen Fortman, Mangefrida and freshmen Morgan Krause and Emily Wilhelm did the job Friday.
But Baenziger has been the constant.
"She's been very solid this year," Goletz said of his junior goalkeeper. "And coming back from a state championship run last year, especially Fiona getting used to playing with four new people completely in the back has taken some time. It's taken the group some time to get used to, but that six shutouts already is a great step for a team that always prides itself defensively."
"At the beginning of the season, we were a bit shaky, but it's kind of expected when you're bringing up three new people, especially freshmen," Baenziger said. "But we've jelled really well. But I think we're doing a great job, we're really improving and that's what counts."
Improvement is also what Owens saw.
"We play in this tournament because it's the top teams in the area and we want to see how we match up," she said. "We played really, really well. I'm very, very proud of how my team played. We're still working on some things, but it's a progression. We're working toward the end of the season, and it's good to play someone like a two-time defending state champion because it shows you the areas you still need to tweak and work on. But overall I'm really happy with how we played."
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