St. Charles North seniors Hailey Rydberg and Gia Wahlberg have been playing soccer together for nearly two-thirds of their young lives.
That familiarity has certainly come in handy for the North Stars the past four seasons.
Fresh from their repeat as PepsiCo Showdown champions last Sunday against Wheaton Warrenville South, the North Stars (11-0-1, 3-0) remain in control of their own destiny in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division following Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over crosstown rival St. Charles East.
Midway through the first half, Wahlberg struck for the game's first goal on a header off a picture-perfect pass from Rydberg.
"The first one was a gorgeous cross from Hailey," said Wahlberg. "She beat a defender and put it on a dime. It definitely was the cross that got us that. The header was the easy part of the entire play."
Despite outshooting the Saints (9-3-3, 3-1) 14-0 in the opening half, the North Stars came up empty until the final minute when Michigan State-bound Wahlberg tallied her second goal of the game with 12.8 seconds remaining for a 2-0 lead.
"It was another good play up the middle," said Wahlberg. "I saw the opportunity to go take it wide and it was just a simple toe poke past the goalie.
"It was a great way to end the half -- to take a little chip off from them. It definitely was the way we wanted to end the first half."
"That was a nice little addition going into halftime," said North Stars coach Brian Harks.
Meanwhile, Saints coach Vince DiNuzzo felt it took his team a little longer than usual to get going.
"They outworked us in that first half and outplayed us in every aspect of the game," said DiNuzzo. "I think we were a little slow to get into our rhythm. Our kids weren't really challenging the first ball."
Ten minutes into the second half, the North Stars extended their lead to 3-0 on sophomore Samantha Rydberg's 25-yard blast from the middle of the field.
Five minutes later, the Saints snapped the shutout bid when senior Rose Stackhouse slipped through the North Stars' defense on a mini-breakaway and scored to make it 3-1.
Midway through the second half, sophomore Alondra Carranza nearly closed the gap to 3-2 as her header caromed off the post.
"I thought we played a lot better in the second half," said DiNuzzo. "We're not going to make excuses but we've got a lot of young kids on this team. We've got four freshmen playing the majority of the game.
"That experience is going to go a long way -- playing in a North-East matchup."
Saints junior keeper Grace Griffin recorded 9 saves.
The Rydberg-Wahlberg connection continues to shine for the North Stars.
"The first time I stepped on a soccer field was with Hailey when we were 5 or 6," said Wahlberg. "Our goals were flags. I'm absolutely blessed to be playing with her in high school. It's obvious that we've been playing together for a long time."