It's very hard to find many faults with St. Charles North's performance in Wednesday's 4-1 victory over Geneva.
The North Stars dominated from midway through the first half, never relented and scored both scrambling goals and goals from well-driven shots. When the 80 minutes were finished, they earned at least a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title.
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"We've been working for weeks now about creating offensive chances and all the little things you can do," North Stars coach Ruth Vostal said. "Not just to make runs off the ball, but the other little details you can do to keep the ball and keep momentum going your way."
It took the North Stars (11-2-1, 5-0-1) nearly the first quarter of the match to get the combinations right. But even when attacks weren't turning into goals, they sent probing passes between defenders to try to stretch the Vikings back line.
"We've been working on finding the seams and moving the ball and we work in every practice on finding combinations," Vostal said. "I think now we have somewhat of a formation. Knowing who my players are and their strengths, we have come to that point of working on where the ball should go."
To be fair, that back line was still without a pair of senior captains. Annie Waldoch and Molly Stanfa both played some in their returns from injury and the Vikings were playing 24 hours after defeating rival Batavia. If there were excuses, Geneva coach Megan Owens wasn't using them.
"Today was not our best day," Owens said. "It's hard to play on back-to-back days and we had a big moral victory over Batavia. But I told the girls that I'm not going to make excuses. We didn't play well in the first half. We played much better in the second half."
Eleven minutes into the match, Alyssa Brandt slid to send a low shot that forced a sharp save by Geneva keeper Sam Hauser. From that point, nearly all chances in the first half fell to the North Stars.
The opening goal came in the 16th minute of the half when Hanna Durocher dribbled through three defenders before scoring.
"She is one of the most hardworking, passionate soccer players I have coached," Vostal said. "In a tight area, she is the one you want to have the ball."
With eight minutes to play before halftime, the North Stars attacked in waves. Megan O'Leary had a shot cleared off the line to midfield. The North Stars moved forward again, and this time Alyssa Brandt hit a shot from left to right that was still rising when it tore into the right side netting.
Seventy-four seconds after Brandt's goal, Ashlyn Walter gave the North Stars a 3-0 halftime lead when she scored after an initial Durocher shot was blocked.
"I feel like this was one of those games where everything we've been practicing came together," Walter said. "We've had a few rough games, but we talked before the game and got our momentum going and we just clicked."
Geneva (8-3-1, 2-1) rallied at halftime. Waldoch, playing in midfield, hit a shot that forced a save from St. Charles North keeper Shelby Stitz as the match began to move end-to-end.
That pressure resulted in Geneva's goal with 18:24 left when Taylor Williams scored on a penalty kick.
"We played with more composure, more fight and were more aggressive in the second half." Owens said. "Bottom line -- it wasn't our best game. Props to North, they showed up ready to play from the opening whistle and we didn't."
The North Stars, who hit the post twice in the second half, restored their three-goal margin with 8:57 to play when Walter passed to Sophie Pohl, whose shot moved past defenders and teammates alike on its way into the goal.
By providing the pass, Walter finished with a goal and an assist for the North Stars.
"That's my job," Walter said. "I'm a forward and that's what I'm supposed to be doing. It's definitely nice to put one in against a rivalry team. I'm glad that everyone around me got to put one in tonight too."