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St. Charles North, Naperville Central defenses dominate in scoreless draw

By Matt LeCren, 04/09/23, 8:45PM CDT


Ranked teams lock down each other in constructive battle

By Matt Le Cren

NAPERVILLE – Few players in Illinois can strike fear into the hearts of defenders like Naperville Central striker Megan Norkett can.

The Northwestern recruit and two-time Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater tallied 19 goals and nine assists as a junior, when she played more in the midfield than up-top.

Norkett is off to an even faster start as a full-time forward this spring. She bagged nine goals in the Redhawks’ first four games, all victories.

Which made what St. Charles North seniors Abby Vichich and Lauren Balster did Saturday pretty impressive. The two center backs, with a little help from senior goalkeeper Kara Claussner, held Norkett and her teammates scoreless in a 0-0 draw at Memorial Stadium.

“We knew she was just trying to turn us and trying to play down line,” Vichich said. “So we had one of us stick with her the whole time and one drop behind where she was going to play the ball, just to try to eliminate her playing down line and have her take us on 1-on-1.

“I think me and Lauren did a good job of holding her 1-on-1 and forcing her to try to shoot a bad shot that she didn’t have a good angle with.”

Norkett nonetheless did get her fair share of shots, creating six scoring chances. Two shots went over the crossbar, another missed just wide of the right post and Claussner leaped to punch two more over the pipe.

“I think it’s always exciting to go against quality players, especially being a nonconference game,” Balster said.  “I think this is a good opportunity to face quality forwards, because I know our conference is definitely tough.

“The DuKane Conference is one of the best in the state, so I think this will prepare us more to face those opponents.”

The Redhawks (4-0-1) are ranked 10th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, one spot ahead of the North Stars (5-1-1), whose only loss is a 2-1 decision to no. 2 Barrington. It was indeed a good test for both teams, who each feature a premium attacking player and solid backlines.

Both teams lost key pieces of both their forward attacks and backlines to graduation but have remained top-notch. The North Stars have made some moves in the defensive third.

“I think our defense has done a really good job of working well together. Last year I did not play center back,” said Balster, who moved from the right side. “So, Abby and I are a new duo in the middle, and then we have two new starting outside backs.

“We’ve done really well with the changeover stepping up. I love how our coach puts us against quality nonconference games, because it really prepares us for what’s to come.”

St. Charles North coach Brian Harks was mostly pleased with how the North Stars rose to the challenge. While Michigan State-bound Bella Najera was their most dangerous attacker, someone else also stood out to Harks.

“At times, I thought Ryan Spaulding up-top gave a fantastic effort today,” Harks said. “She was just a motor that wouldn’t quit.

“And then when asked, our goalkeeper, Kara Claussner, came up really big for us, which was nice. I thought we had bits and pieces where we looked good and other times where maybe we could clean things up a bit.”

Claussner made three saves. Her counterparts, Naperville Central’s Emma Dram and Erin Hackett, combined to make three saves. Dram, a sophomore, made a nice reflex save on a ball that came right at her in the first half.

“Their defense did a good job,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “They were organized. They were disciplined.

“We’re still trying to (get a) feel on who’s what, where are we going and how are we doing it. The only forward that got a consistent amount of time last year was Megan, so it’s kind of a new system.

“They’re all good players. We gave them a different system than they may have played, with different layers. We find out what are their strengths and how we take advantage of them. It takes some time.”

The weather conditions haven’t helped that process.

“Especially the first month of the season, you’re trying not to lose your toes to frostbite,” Adams said. “While you train, it’s hard to stay focused when it’s cold, so as we’re getting into some nicer weather, we can do some more consistent training and we can stop and talk.

“You don’t want stop and talk when it’s 28 degrees; you just want to move. So now it’s a little nicer, we can talk. We’ve got a couple games of film we can look at and see this is what we want to do and this is what we don’t want to do.”

The Redhawks definitely do want to play quality opponents, and they faced one Saturday.

“I think it’s good that we kept our streak of not losing,” Dram said. “This is the first tie we’ve had, but it’s also one of the toughest, if not the toughest team we’ve faced.

“It definitely opened up our eyes in terms of what we need to work on, but we also had really good plays and opportunities.”

Adams used the game as an opportunity to play his entire roster against a tough team.

“The ones you want to play are the nonconference games that you’re not sure going in that you’re the better team and you’ve got to play well to win,” Adams said. “We’ll take a look at film, but even without film, here’s some things we did well and what did we need to do to become a better team.

“There are five regular season games that we have where winning is the absolute priority – the five DuPage Valley Conference games – and there are seven games in the playoffs that we absolutely have to win. Every other game is an opportunity to try to get better to win those games. Everybody played today, which is one of the goals.”



Starting lineups


St. Charles North
GK: Kara Claussner
D: Lauren Balster
D: Abby Vichich
D: Courtney Suhr
D: Chloe Kirsten
M: Sophie Kirsten
M: Juliana Park
M: Kayla Floyd
M: Bella Najera
F: Ryan Spaulding
F: Laney Stark


Naperville Central
GK: Emma Dram
D: Chloe Mowry
D: Taylor Walk
D: Anna Sadowski
D: Ella Burke
M: Lauren Thorne
M: Madison Hackett
M: Rebecca Ruggiero
F: Alexandra Jonaitis
F: Megan Norkett
F: Malia Shen


Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Abby Vichich, sr., D, St. Charles North



Scoring summary


First half
No scoring


Second half
No scoring