Claudia Najera's double helped get the 2017 campaign off to flying start for St. Charles North as the Stars cruised to a 4-0 win over host Loyola Saturday afternoon at Hoerster Field in Wilmette.
The 2016 supersectional finalists went ahead for good when Najera opened her scoring account in the 8th minute, and after a Gia Wahlberg strike just after the break, it was all North which looked in midseason form against the reigning Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division champs.
"You never know what to expect in your season opener, but today kind of exceeded my expectations for sure," said Stars head coach Brian Harks, who in his first season last year would guide his club within one victory of a spot in the Class 3A state tournament.
"I thought we did really well for our first time out," agreed senior Amanda Czerniak, who along with her mates Cassidy Joyce, Hailey Rydberg and Najera were disciplined, and dogged in the middle of the park having a little too much pace and energy for their counterparts thus slowing the Ramblers' attack to a halt for most of the day.
Jordan Karom and Madison Kaufmann would keep the ball in the mix inside the Loyola box but it was Najera whose calm touch after collecting a Gia Wahlberg helper that would become the eventual game-winner.
The home side would have few chances in this match, the best coming shortly after Najera would find the back of the net.
The first would come from the Ramblers' superb striker, sophomore Maggie Brett, when she nearly took a Kayleigh Purcell ball in on Stars keeper Sami Sample.
Moments later, Brett would put Stephanie Ramsey through on the right side, but up stepped Sample, whose strong challenge off her line cut the angle and timing on the Ramsey attempt which went wide at 15 minutes.
It was too much Rydberg, Czerniak, Najera and Wahlberg for the Ramblers after intermission as the quartet, along with a confident back line that kept the home side in its own end more than it would like.
Najera would shred the Loyola back line with a lovely ball to put Wahlberg through in the 44th minute then it was Najera 10 minutes later who made it 3-0 from just inside 18 yards away.
Wahlberg and Rydberg would combine beautifully to make it 4-0 in the 74th minute, with an angled blast off the gloves of Avery, who had no chance on any of the four her club would concede.
"St. Charles (North) played really well today but for us, it was a starting point in a long season, which will get better each time we go out to play," said the junior keeper, who last season registered 14 shutouts.
The Stars will be on the road Tuesday to play Bartlett, before traveling to Naperville to play state power Neuqua Valley the next day.
"That will be a good early season test for us," said Harks.