Girls soccer: Stark’s birthday goal helps St. Charles Noth drop Naperville Central

Birthdays are always better with a surprise.

St. Charles North senior forward Laney Stark prefers to not be surprised on her birthday – at least when she’s playing a soccer game.

Heading into Saturday’s nonconference home game against Naperville Central, Stark expected to continue her tradition of scoring a goal on her birthday.

She didn’t disappoint on her 18th birthday. Stark started a three-goal surge in the second half to power the North Stars to a 4-2 comeback win over Naperville Central.

Stark will end her prep career with a nice gift, scoring a goal on her birthday in each of the last three seasons. She scored two goals last season on her birthday in a 3-1 win over Wheaton Warrenville South.

“I’ve scored every year for the past three years,” Stark said. “My freshman year we didn’t play because of COVID, so we didn’t play.”

Stark raised her season tally to five goals and six assists, knocking in the tying goal at 2-2 with 16:30 left in regulation. Almost three minutes later, Kayla Floyd notched her second goal of the game, handing the North Stars (5-0-3) a 3-2 lead by scoring off a header.

Juliana Park added an insurance goal with 10:53 remaining to cap a furious rally by the North Stars.

Ironically, the North Stars missed numerous close attempts in the first 14-plus minutes of the second half before finally busting loose following Stark’s goal.

“We came out in the first half and Naperville Central was really physical and they got after the 50-50 balls and really took it to us,” St. Charles North coach Brian Harks said. “We maybe got caught little bit on our heels going into halftime. We talked about what our response was going to be. I was super pleased with the way the girls rallied back. It seemed we were knocking on the door a little bit, but at some point, the girls decided to bust the door down.”

The Redhawks (4-2) shocked the mostly large, pro-St. Charles North crowd on the sunny afternoon by seizing leads of 1-0 and 2-1 thanks to goals by Malia Shen and Emerson Burke. Naperville Central had four quality shot attempts in a two-minute segment midway through the second half but came up empty, including Shen’s line-drive kick that nailed off the cross bar and smacked down on the turf and hit St. Charles North goalie Lauren Korioth in the back before she turned around and grabbed the loose ball for a save.

“We worked hard and got that second goal back,” Shen said. “We had a lot of (missed chances). It’s difficult to see the score not reflect how the game was. If we just get those goals on target, we can become more impactful as a team.”

Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said his players had to play a full 80 minutes to knock off the sizzling North Stars.

“Saturday nonconference games are always different,” Adams said. “We always have the philosophy that it’s a chance for everyone on the roster to play. That’s a huge part. It’s a long season, so getting everyone minutes is important. We just have to make sure we have the same intensity no matter who is out on the field. I think in the second half, their intensity was a little bit stronger than ours. This is a learning experience. We learned today we can’t have a drop in intensity. We will learn from it.”

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