By Bobby Narang
St. Charles North coach Brian Harks hoped to get another crack at St. Charles East on Saturday.
Harks also hoped his team can defend its Rose Augsburg-Drach Invitational title at St. Charles East on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Harks thought the weather, like it did March 18, might be the victor on Saturday.
He was right.
All four placing games were canceled not long after sunrise, Saturday (March 25).
The St. Charles East-St. Charles North rivalry is scheduled to resume in conference play on Tri-Cities Night on May 2 at Batavia.
Despite the loss of the eagerly anticipated Rose Augsburg-Drach title game rematch, both teams have started the season on the right foot.
St. Charles North (2-1-0) defeated Nazareth 4-0 in its first game of the tourney, then posted a 2-0 win over Loyola in the semifinal Thursday.
St. Charles East (4-0-0) which hoped to win the tourney title for the first time since 2021. The Fighting Saints defeating Bartlett 2-1 and Hononegah 5-0 to advance to the championship.
“I was really proud of the way the girls played last night against Loyola,” Harks said. “It wasn’t perfect by any means. We certainly made a lot of mistakes but the reactions of the girls to those mistakes and how hard they fought back was great. Loyola had a lot of really good opportunities and various players stepped up. It was good game overall.
“It’s St. Charles soccer,” he said. “Soccer in St. Charles has a rich tradition of playing at a very high level, so we know St. Charles East is living up to that potential.
“St. Charles East is a deep team returning a lot of players. They have very skilled attackers with a solid back line and a center mid that does a nice job of putting on pressure.”
The early rivalry game would have pitted no. 7 St. Charles East, per the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, against no. 11 St. Charles North. The North Stars won the Augburg-Drach championship game and DuKane Conference match last season, but the Fighting Saints won the game that mattered the most, the Class 3A sectional championship game it hosted in a 3-1 decision.
Harks said his goalie, third-year starter Kara Claussner, is playing at a high level. She recorded 10 saves in the shutout win over Loyola.
“Kara played fantastic,” Harks said. “We didn’t play perfectly. We’re still trying to figure things out and get some continuity on the field. Every now and then, Loyola got a nice scoring opportunity but Kara stepped up.
“She’s a player every year you’ve see her grown in skill but also confidence. This year her skill has improved tremendously, but she’s also now the loudest player on the field.”
Harks added that senior midfielder Bella Najera, senior forward Sophie Kirsten, sophomore defender Chloe Kirsten and junior forward Laney Stark have stepped up.
“Bella is playing fantastic for us,” he said. “She’s very comfortable with the ball, even in pressure. She distributes the ball and makes everyone on the team look good.
“Sophie is a player we’re asking to play a slightly different role than she’s used to playing. She’s normally an attacking center mid, but she’s playing at the nine this season. She continues to get better and better. She does a lot of things that make her teammates look good. She scored a nice goal last night. That was a great moment for her.
“Laney Stark is a new junior transfer student. She’s a very hard-nosed individual. She grinds it out, is physical and great with the ball at her feet. Chloe has really elevated her game and been a consistent player. Both Kirsten (girls) are playing great.”
Meanwhile, DiNuzzo said senior defender Lauren Silvestri, junior defender Mackenzie Loomis and forwards Ella Stehman, Grace Williams and Mia Raschke are players to watch early in the season.
“Lauren Silvestri has been very consistent in the back,” he said. “She is winning the first ball out of the air, winning tackles, and keeping possession for the team.
“Mackenzie Loomis has been strong for us in the backline. She has taken a major step forward this year and has been someone that the team relies on. Our forwards, Grace, Mia, Ella, are all starting to find their stride and become more consistent.”