Barger's goal lifts Naperville North over St. Charles East
At some point, Naperville North junior midfielder Tyson Amoo-Mensah knew Saturday's game against highly ranked St. Charles East would require a highlight-type play.
Amoo-Mensah had a worthy candidate for the nonconference game against the Saints, who hadn't lost since March 23. Alex Barger entered the game leading the Huskies with 10 goals.
"Coming in, we knew it was going to be a tough game, but our attitude and goal was we knew we had to stay composed and get the win," Amoo-Mensah said. "(Alex) is always been a good target for us, is very dangerous, so looking for him is always one of our first options."
Barger added to his growing reputation, knocking in a leaping header in the first half to propel the Huskies to a 1-0 win over the Saints in Naperville.
By now, Naperville North coach Jim Konrad is used to watching Barger make game-winning goals.
"Tyson was on the wing, and he had three or four guys on him," Konrad said. "He did a nice job stuttering and keeping the ball, played a ball across the box. Alex, just a super athletic move, jumped over one of their kids and just caught keeper over the top. It was two great individual efforts that led to the win."
The Huskies (9-2) also picked up an outstanding effort from senior goalie Pablo Jara, who made 5 saves to notch his sixth shutout of the season. The Saints (11-3-2) entered the match with 54 goals, but Naperville North's backline did a stellar job limiting their scoring chances. St. Charles East senior Jacob Maslowski had two shots in the final seven minutes that were easy saves for Jara.
The Saints, who defeated St. Charles North on Thursday, struggled without leading scorer Sebastian Carranza (18 goals). The junior striker played less than two minutes before leaving with a lingering bruised ankle injury suffered against the North Stars.
"Without Sebastian, we had to adjust," St. Charles East coach Vince DiNuzzo said. "We wanted to get him some rest for our last two conference games. We got outworked, credit to them. They won every 50-50 ball in the air and wanted it more and it showed in the result. It wasn't our best performance today. It was good to get some guys minutes in, but this hurts because we thought with a full team, we could've given them a game. They outplayed us today."
Barger scored the lone goal of the game with 21:49 remaining in the first half on a windy and rainy afternoon before a sparse and bundled crowd.
"I saw Tyson pick his head up and I knew I had to get my head on it," Barger said of his goal. "Luckily, I was able to put it past the keeper. I think (this win) builds confidence, helps show some of our younger guys what Naperville North soccer is and what they're in for."
Barger said he's learned to adjust to opposing teams focusing more on stopping him.
"My goal is to do what I can, be effective in the attacking whether there's one guy, two guy or three guys on me," he said. "I'll find a way to work through it, and will deal with it."
Konrad said the Huskies gained some confidence heading into their final two games against Waubonsie Valley and St. Charles North. The Huskies, a four-time state champion, have outscored their opponents 10-1 in their five-game winning streak.
"They are a great team and great program, so this is a big deal for us," Konrad said. "With it being Senior Night and no state championship, this game is huge. The boys really took this chance and really wanted to test themselves. Fortunately, we were able to hold them off and secure the win. This was a great win for our seniors and program."