SCN finally finds way to stop Geneva North Stars break series winless streak with 4-1 win
By Jared Birchfield
GENEVA – Going into Tuesday night’s DuKane Conference match against Geneva, St. Charles North had a three-season winless streak with the Vikings. Geneva won the last contest in 2019 and the previous two years’ clashes ended in ties.
Early on, it looked that the streak might extend to four, as Geneva, ranked 20th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, struck first.
However, no. 23 St. Charles North rallied and scored four times – more goals than the total for the three previous Geneva meetings – and won the conference contest 4-1.
St. Charles North coach Eric Willson was unaware of the streak.
“I didn’t realize that. I’ll tell you what, that is good to hear,” Willson said. “I think that we were just focused on making sure we take care of business in this conference and so far, that has been happening. I think the fact that we are able to play is the no. 1 the thing that we are most happy about.”
Geneva sophomore Grant Havertine started the scoring in the 12th minute.
Willson’s squad did not let the goal bother them and responded a minute later. Jared Sinnaeve got past Geneva’s defense and knocked the ball in on a 30-yarder from left of the net to tie the score.
“It’s the second time we’ve gone down like that where we felt like we were getting run of play and then all of a sudden, you go backwards. How do you respond from that?” the North coach said. “I think that speaks to the character and leadership we’ve got on the field. We just say ‘All right, next play, lets go’ It’s a complete game that needs to be had.”
Geneva coach Jason Bhatta felt the North equalizer took the wind of his team’s sails.
“I think we started well, but I think the first goal we gave up to tie, it deflated them a little bit and their response wasn’t good enough,” Bhatta said. “We kind of put our heads down, and I thought we lost the belief in how we wanted to play, and I don’t think we recovered after that.”
Solving Geneva’s formation change early in the match helped North shut down the Vikings’ scoring threats, Christian Diaz and Ryan Leak. Geneva (2-1-1) started out with a 4-3-3 attack but then switched to a 3-5-2.
“We saw a formation that we don’t usually encounter. But once we figured it out, we made sure we had one extra guy in the back there so no one had to be one-on-one with those guys (Diaz and Leake), because we know how dangerous they can be,” said Drew Balster, North center back and captain. “We just made sure we had just a little bit of extra help, and we were able to shift between guys. We had it covered from then on.”
“(Diaz and Leake) were not as successful as we left them isolated up there. They were on an island for most of the game,” Bhatta said. “We hoofed the ball up there and hoped that they could do something, and we didn’t give them too much help.”
Willson considered his backline as unsung heroes. Balster, Mike DePasquale, Zach Curtis and John Kirby got the start.
“Often times, backline guys, if you don’t see a lot from them, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t doing a wonderful job,” the North coach said. “Sometimes it just means there a doing an even better job. I think that’s what we saw from them tonight.”
The formation change also helped the North Stars’ offense.
“We realized that they switched their positions. We had an opening in the midfield, and that’s where we decide to play through. That was a big strength for us,” Sinnaeve said. “They only had three in the back, so we decided to take advantage of that and swing around them and attack and that worked perfectly for us."
The Bradley University recruit put his squad ahead for good at the 18:57 mark.
“We capitalized on a bad touch by Geneva, and I put it away,” Sinnaeve said describing the goal. “I took it down the sideline, cut in and slotted it, and the rest is history.”
Sinnaeve was awarded the North Stars’ game shield, an award passed on to the best player in each match. Willson agreed with his player’s choice.
“I love the stature Jared has -- how well he uses his frame to separate himself from defenders, to get his body in there and help keep possessions,” said Willson. “He knows the game really well. He helps to communicate with other guys and I think that he finishes really well. He’s pretty ruthless with his finishing. He’s a pretty complete player.”
Sinnaeve’s father was aware of the winless streak.
“Tonight is a very big night for not only me but for my dad,” said Sinnaeve. “Since we don’t have a state series, he tells me his two goals this year are to see me win against Geneva and St. Charles East since he hasn’t seen us beat them yet,”
North (3-1-0) did not go on autopilot in the second half and scored two more goals.
“I really like the way we came out in the second half,” Willson said. “You’ve got a lead and often times you can get a little complacent. The talk at halftime was ‘There’s no such thing as being satisfied with just one half of play. Let’s go and finish the job. They did a great job of doing that. We wanted to make a statement to ourselves on how we can play for 80 minutes, and we did a nice job of doing that tonight.”
Luke Persenico’s goal in the 44th minute, and Sam Strader’s strike two minutes later completed the North Stars’ scoring,
Both teams have a tough schedule for the rest of this week.
The North Stars host conference rival and 25th-ranked Lake Park on Thursday. North then visits defending Class 3A state champion and no. 8 West Chicago on Saturday. The last time the two teams met, the Wildcats eliminated the North Stars from the state tournament.
“I love the fact that we have a really difficult schedule, and we are going to load up and see where we stack up with the group,” said Willson.
On Thursday, Geneva visits sixth-ranked St. Charles East after the Fighting Saints were upset by Wheaton Warrenville South two days prior. On Saturday, the Vikings host top-ranked Naperville North.
“It’s not going to get any easier with St. Charles East and Naperville North so hopefully we get a better response,” said Bhatta. “Our energy was down after giving up that equalizing goal.
“We lost energy and stopped playing and you are going to get punished in this conference when you do that especially when we have so many good teams.”
St. Charles North GK: Vincent Miteff D: Drew Balster D: Mike DePasquale D: Zach Curtis D: John Kirby M: Colin Michels M: Branden Collins M: Sam Stader F: Luke Persenico F: Jared Sinnaeve F: Liam Kelly
Geneva GK: Cal Parise D: Bennett Nippert D: Jack Cannon D: Clayton Williams D: Evan Horvath M: Joe Carli M: Dominick Peri M: Braeden McPheron F: Christan Diaz F: Ryan Leake F: Dominik Barwiolek
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Jared Sinnaeve, sr., F, St. Charles North
First half Geneva – Grant Havertine (UA) 12th minute St. Charles North – Jared Sinnaeve (UA) 13th minute St. Chares North – Jared Sinnaeve (UA) 22nd minutes
Second half St. Charles North – Luke Persenico (UA) 44th minute St. Charles North – Sam Strader (Colin Michels) 46th minute