St. Charles North looks strong against Neuqua Valley
St. Charles North snagged a few tournament trophies along with regional and sectional titles last spring before having its dreams of winning a state title broken in a supersectional for its only loss of a fantastic season.
Some key personnel are gone now, but with the amount of talent that returns, the North Stars are definitely deep, capable, hungry and seemingly destined for another stellar season.
On Saturday they picked up victory No. 1, beating Neuqua Valley 2-0 in a nonconference game on the turf field at Commissioner's Park in Naperville.
"Neuqua Valley is always a strong program year in and year out, and even in down years they are amazing," North Stars coach Brian Harks said. "This is what you want to do in a season like this -- challenge yourself early and often as much as you can. A game against them is a good opportunity to see where we're at."
Neuqua Valley (0-1-1) came out strong but couldn't finish any of its scoring chances.
"I thought that Neuqua came out ready to go and were really dangerous with a lot of early opportunities," Harks said. "I think our girls adjusted and then we started to create our own opportunities as the game went along."
CeCe Wahlberg finished one of those chances in the 17th minute, on a ball from Sarah Andrey.
"I just kind of knew what I had on that run with a defender behind me," she said. "(Andrey) is a very good player and I knew she could get me that ball and she did. I just had to follow through on my end and finish."
Sami Rydberg delivered the knockout blow in the 48th minute when she curled in a corner kick, although she gave props to the windy conditions.
"The wind just took it right under the top bar," she said. "That felt really good to me because we knew Neuqua was a really good team and we were coming off a tie and wanted to take it to them and get the win. Having that second goal had us a lot more comfortable."
Sara Maleski made 6 saves to earn the shutout. Sophomore center backs Grace Barresi and Makenna Collins were fierce in back.
"I think our center backs did a nice job today," Harks said. "They kept our back line organized, which was a nice improvement from Thursday. The middle of our field worked their butt off. Neuqua has some really good players in the middle and our center mids did a nice job of sticking with them."
Like most teams in March, the Wildcats are still figuring a lot of things, including learning new positions. Ultimately, they should be really tough to handle once they gain more game experience together.
"We have some girls playing positions that they're not necessarily used to," Wildcats coach Joe Moreau said. "Shannon Tagler had never played forward before and Piper (Biziorek) is more used to playing midfield or outside back and she's now playing up top."
A lack of outdoor practice time hasn't helped the Wildcats adapt to their new roles either.
"You don't know where you are going to practice one day to the next, indoors or outdoors," Moreau said. "Yesterday we were in the hallway because we didn't have indoor time and our field is a swamp. We couldn't have turf time until 6:45 p.m., but with a noon game the next day, that wouldn't have been very wise."