NAPERVILLE – When Naperville North junior Annie Chang scores goals, they tend to come in bunches.
The varsity rookie has recorded hat-tricks against South Elgin and Neuqua Valley, which was impressive enough.
But those performances perhaps weren’t as memorable as the one Chang turned in Thursday night against crosstown rival Naperville Central. She scored two more goals, starting and finishing the scoring as the host Huskies knocked off the Redhawks 3-1 in a key DuPage Valley Conference match.
The forward now has 11 goals on the season.
“We were all pumped for this game, because we really wanted to beat Central,” Chang said. “We were really motivated to come out after the loss on Tuesday (a 1-0 overtime defeat at Metea Valley).
“Everyone worked really hard throughout the whole game. It was amazing to see, especially because it’s the last game for the seniors on the home field.”
Indeed, senior starters Cameron DeCook, Maggie Fitzgerald and Alison Sutton helped the Huskies complete a perfect 7-0-0 home record while staying alive in the DuPage Valley Conference race. The Huskies (10-5-1, 3-1-0) moved into a tie for second place with the Redhawks (7-4-1, 3-1-0). Both are a half-game behind Metea Valley (13-0-3, 3-0-0).
Metea Valley hosts Waubonsie Valley (5-8-1, 0-2-0) on Friday and Naperville Central on Tuesday, while Naperville North visits Waubonsie Valley on Saturday.
Naperville Central, which has now lost three of its last four matches, put up a great fight. The Redhawks are already looking ahead.
“As I told the girls, how are we going to bounce back?” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “How are we going to come back from an emotional loss, one that is important to us?
“This is the first game where we said winning is the no. 1 job. It didn’t fall the way we wanted.
“On the flip side, we are still playing for a DVC championship on Tuesday.”
The Redhawks might take a page from the playbook of the Huskies, who bounced back nicely from the Tuesday loss to Metea Valley, which won on a first overtime buzzer-beater.
On Thursday night, Naperville North got an unexpected goal from junior Jacey Sturek, who fired home a corner kick to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead with 18:07 left in the second half. It held up as the game-winner.
“We got a little bit of luck on the corner kick to go in, but I told the girls that’s the luck we didn’t get on Tuesday night,” Naperville North coach Steve Goletz said. “Tuesday night was a tough setback for the kids.
“I thought we played a decent game. They (Metea Valley) got a crazy goal at the end but credit to them, they’re a great program.
“I challenged the girls to bounce back, and to bounce back like they did against a very good team is fantastic. It was the seniors’ last home game and to go out beating Naperville Central on your home field, for Mag and Cam as captains, it’s a fantastic feeling to beat your cross-town rival.”
Bending in a corner kick was a fantastic feeling for Sturek, who has scored four goals and recorded three assists in her rookie varsity season.
“I like switching the field, playing through-balls and scoring, obviously,” the midfielder said. “And then I really like taking corners.”
Goletz has been impressed with Sturek’s service, even when they don’t go in the net. It was the first time Sturek has scored off a corner kick in a high school game.
“I have scored for club, but not very often,” Sturek said. “We were having a little trouble on restarts before.
“Obviously, now we’re starting to bounce back. It felt really good.”
Sturek’s goal broke a 1-1 tie after both sides scored on fantastic finishes in the first half.
Chang drew first blood when she ripped a 27-yard cracker into the upper-90 with 7:39 to go.
“Annie’s been the sparkplug for us,” Goletz said. “She’s such a great kid. She plays so hard.
“She’s such a cerebral player, and we’re just super excited that even though (leading scorer) Claire (DeCook) is out, we’re finding new kids to step up. That’s the story of this program - wait your turn. When their turn is called, I’ve got so many kids that I know I can trust.”
Chang’s opening strike was an example of how Goletz can trust his team to execute a game plan. The Huskies focused on countering Naperville Central’s two best players – Northwestern recruit Norkett and Cincinnati-bound center back Ella Burke.
Norkett scored the Redhawks’ lone goal, answering Chang with a dribble-drive past three defenders before unleashing a wicked 22-yard rocket that freshman goalkeeper Olivia Ochsner got a hand on but couldn’t stop due to the pace.
“Megan’s got to be the best player we’ve seen all year," Goletz said. "I think we needed to do everything we could to slow her down.
“She obviously scored a great goal. She could have had two others. She’s a fantastic player, and the sky is the limit for her."
Burke played her usual tough-nosed defense, too, but Goletz said the Huskies exploited one of her tendencies on Chang’s first goal.
“We knew that Ella is a load,” Goletz said. “Burke is all over the place. But as great as Ella is, there are times where she runs herself out of plays. The first goal, she comes across and covers the ball. She wins the header, but then Annie replaces the space where she left and is able to uncork a great shot.
“Those are things we talked about. Any time she’s out of the central channel, we’ve got to try to attack that space.”
Key to that strategy was the play of junior Rachael Noren on the wing.
“Rachael Noren occupied Ella,” Goletz said. “She did a fantastic job of not letting her control the back of the field.
“To do that as a junior and just get beat-on time after time, that is a tough thing. Rachael kept her head the entire game and generated a ton of offensive chances.”
The Huskies weren’t dramatically better on offense, finishing with a 10-8 edge in shots, but they put nine on frame. Naperville Central second half goalkeeper Emma Dram made five saves after starter Erin Hackett stopped one shot in the first half.
Ochsner made three saves. Two were on Norkett, who had all but two of her team’s attempts.
“They were fast,” Burke said of Naperville North. “They utilized their outside players a lot. A lot of times in the midfield, they were strong on 50/50 balls.”
Adams said that physical strength proved decisive.
“Obviously, we know their dead balls are going to be good,” he said. “That’s a corner kick you’re not expecting to play that way. It doesn’t happen very often.
“They were dangerous on those. They had the ball whipped into spots, and I thought our defense did a pretty good job of staying composed and in control.
“But with the group we have, with the large number of freshmen and sophomores starting, you have the element that they’re really playing up a lot of times, playing against kids that are older. That physicality of the game is still something we’re kind of getting adjusted to.
“The time is going to be less. Then as you have the ball, you’re going to get hit. You’re going to get pushed, and you’ve got to be able to play faster or play harder, one of the two. We still have a lot of girls that are kind of adjusting to that.
“It’s unfortunate that this game kind of brought that out at a couple different times.”
Even so, Naperville Central remained in the game until the final minute. That’s when Isa Polavieja’s shot hit the crossbar before Chang buried the rebound with 24 seconds to go.
“Playing Central is always a great battle,” Goletz said. “It’s always fun. You’ve got great players all over the field.
“We battled tonight once again. As I told the girls, nobody outside of our room thought that this team could hang in there with some of the best teams in the state. We’ve proven we can do it time after time.”
Ironically the Huskies, who jumped from ningth to third this week in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, now will be rooting for the no. 19 Redhawks. Naperville North needs to beat Waubonsie Valley and hope Naperville Central defeats undefeated and top-ranked Metea Valley. That would force a three-way tie for the DVC championship.
The Redhawks, who lost out on the league title last year when they lost at home to Metea Valley, won’t lack for motivation.
“It’s not over,” Burke said. “We still have a chance to win the DVC title.
“It’s not done, so we’re just keeping the encouragement going forward.”
GK: Erin Hackett
D: Chloe Mowry
D: Taylor Walk
D: Anna Sadowski
D: Ella Burke
M: Lauren Thorne
M: Rebecca Ruggiero
M: Nicole Smith
F: Bella Brozek
F: Megan Norkett
F: Malia Shen
GK: Olivia Ochsner
D: Reagan O’Malley
D: Alison Sutton
D: Addison Sitzman
D: Abby Penn
M: Audrey Hartmann
M: Maggie Fitzgerald
M: Jacey Sturek
F: Annie Chang
F: Cameron DeCook
F: Rachael Noren
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Annie Chang, jr., F, Naperville North
Naperville North: Annie Chang 7:39 remaining
Naperville Central: Megan Norkett 4:46 remaining
Naperville North: Jacey Sturek (corner kick) 18:07 remaining
Naperville North: Chang :24 remaining