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Game story: St. Charles North 2nd half goal explosion topples Naperville Central

By Bobby Narang, 04/08/24, 11:30AM CDT


North Stars knock in 3 in 7-minute span for 4-2 win

ST. CHARLES – Maybe it was fitting Laney Stark started the second half spree of goals.

It was her birthday, after all.

The St. Charles North senior forward is a two-sport standout. She was the starting point guard and averaged nine points, six assists, five steals and three rebounds for the 27-5 North Stars.

Now, Stark has resumed the playing duties for her main sport – soccer. The Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit is focused on enjoying a memorable season this spring.

She added another milestone in Saturday’s 4-2 comeback win over Naperville Central. The North Stars (5-0-3) scored three goals in the second half to turn a close game into an impressive win. Currently, St. Charles North, ranked no. 11 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, is on pace to top last season’s 17-4-2 record.

Stark knotted the score at 2-2 in the 64th minute and kickstarted a spree of three goals in five-plus minutes that overwhelmed the 12th-ranked Redhawks (2-2-0). The returning Chicagoland Soccer all-stater said she cherished the accomplishment of scoring a goal on her birthday for the third-straight season.

The new 18-year-old, who scored twice on her birthday in a 3-1 triumph against Wheaton Warrenville South last season, has five goals and six assists through eight games. 

Kayla Floyd gave St. Charles North the lead with her second goal of the day via a header in the 67th minute. Juliana Park iced the victory with her goal in the 70th minute.

The win was a great present for Stark and a memorable accomplishment for the team.

“It was awesome, because the whole team is supportive, and we had good energy,” said Stark, who earned the Chicagoland MVP of the Match honor for her energetic and impactful performance. “I think we’ve a very close team this year and trust each other. We’re getting closer and closer by the day, and I think it shows on the field.”

St. Charles North’s late surge came after a frustrating series of shots by several players that just missed hitting the back of the net. The North Stars controlled possession for the first 15 minutes of the second half but couldn’t manage a goal despite countless chances.

St. Charles North coach Brian Harks said his players banded together to pull out the win. He made a point to give shout-outs to several players, including Stark.

“Laney is a player that you can count on for her energy, consistency effort and hard-nosed play,” Hanks said. “She’s a player who doesn’t have an off switch, whether it be a practice, or a game whether it’s nonconference or a championship game. She brings a level of intensity that her teammates feed off every moment that she’s out there. She’s a source of energy other players look to.

“I also thought the balls that Park played today were really well located, and her teammates did a fantastic job finishing. I thought Keira Kelly was a nonstop motor in the field, and our centerbacks Chloe Kirsten and Kyra Treanor did a really nice job of maintaining composure in the back. 

“Our goalkeeper (Lauren Korioth) came up big when we needed her, and the nonstop work ethic of Rian Spaulding up-top just generated so many tips, 50/50 work and just generally a lot of work that caused (Naperville Central) a lot of problems. Plus, Kayla Floyd put the ball in the back of the net when the moment arose.”

Naperville Central’s Emerson Burke handed her team the lead for the second time of the match with 22:42 remaining in the game.

“I saw my teammate (Bella Brozek) driving end line, and I knew I had to bomb it across to get that goal,” Burke said of her goal from approximately 23 yards.

Burke, a freshman forward, said Saturday’s game showed the potential of the Redhawks.

“We have to keep on trusting each other and having each other’s backs. We all have one goal -- to win,” Burke said. “I think we have good potential. We’ve been underrated going into the season. I think we are going to surprise some teams for sure.”

Naperville Central sophomore forward Malia Shen said the loss was difficult for many reasons, but mainly because of the numerous missed chances during key points. The Redhawks dominated the ball in the first half, then had a surge of shots in a five-minute span midway through the second half, highlighted by Burke’s goal.

A St. Charles North miscommunication led to the only score in the first half. It appeared the North Stars suffered an own-goal on a goalie/defender miscue. Naperville Central gave Shen credit for the 15th-minute tally.

In the end, Naperville Central was overwhelmed by St. Charles North’s scoring run.

“I think they just figured out to play in the second half, and we weren’t ready for it,” Shen said. “We worked hard and got that second goal back. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted. Overall, we worked very hard. … We had a lot of chances, but if we can get those goals on target, we can become more impactful as a team.”

St. Charles North sophomore keeper Korioth showed some tremendous poise handling a strong push by Naperville Central. She finished with six saves. One of the stops came on an unusual play that started when Shen banged a long shot off the cross bar. The ball bounced hard off the turf, and then smacked Korioth’s back. She quickly turned around to grab the ball before it crossed the goal line.

“I feel like that’s how as soon as we got the ball out of the goal, the second play is really important to us,” Korioth said. “I was shocked and didn’t know if it was going to go in. I just dodged the ball and was able to get it.

“I feel like our energy on the field was really high, and we dictated the play really well and got good position. Stopping those shots, gave the team some confidence.”

Naperville Central sophomore defender Nicole Smith emphasized the importance for better synergy in the future to avoid tough losses like Saturday.

“We have to work more on communication,” Smith said. “We can play quicker to people’s feet instead of carrying it to get around. They figured that out, so we slowed down.”

St. Charles North was just too strong in the final stretch of the game. Floyd’s two goals pushed her season totals to five goals and four assists.

“We had a scramble … and the ball kind of fell through my legs,” Floyd said of her opening goal. “No one was following me. I saw the back corner open, so I just shot it.”

Park also added a goal and an assist to give her three goals and two assists this season. She took advantage of a slight opening to score her goal.

“I got the ball and cut it inside and looked up and saw I had a good shot and shot it,” Park said. “We had lots of chances but just had to finish them. Our energy was good today. We’re a very close team, on and off the field.”

Naperville Central coach Troy Adams shrugged off Saturday’s loss, calling it a good learning experience against a talented team heading into Tuesday’s conference game against Neuqua Valley.

“We spent time talking how we want our forwards to play,” Adams said. “I thought they did a good job today of looking to make the runs we talked about, looking to be unselfish. We talked about goal contributions being the most important thing, whether you scored, assisted or how you contributed to the goal. A lot of them started to buy into that idea. It’s not about who scored, but we scored.

“That’s a huge thing. Every game we’ve had a couple of different players that have stepped up and gotten goals for us. That was a success. We did a good job in the first half, especially our midfield, controlling the ball and winning 50/50s and doing all the things that get you to where you need to be without getting the praise you should typically get. We had some girls that showed us if moved around, they could contribute in different ways.”

Ironically, St. Charles North missed numerous close attempts in the first 14-plus minutes of the second half before finally busting loose.

“In the first half, Naperville Central was really physical. They got after the 50/50 balls and really took it to us,” St. Charles North coach Brian Harks said. “We maybe got caught little bit on our heels going into halftime. We talked about what our response was going to be. I was super pleased with the way the girls rallied back. It seemed we were knocking on the door a little bit, but at some point, the girls decided to bust the door down.”

The North Stars’ Kelly said everyone should be proud of Saturday’s victory.

“I thought our reaction after the first goal they scored was really good. We really possessed in the second half, and our energy was really high,” she said. “We talked a lot and got through it. We’re a close team. We have hard and focused practices that help us in games.

“We had some frustrating (moments) early, but we kept the energy up and remained positive throughout the game.”

Starting lineups
Naperville Central
GK: Emma Dram
D: Chloe Mowry
D: Eleanor Kane
D: Madison Lee
D: Lauren Thorne
D: Nicole Smith
MF: Emma Russell
MF: Nicole Sacek
MF: Rebecca Ruggiero
F: Malia Shen
F: Emerson Burke
St. Charles North
GK: Lauren Korioth
D: Abby Sims
D: Kyra Treanor
D: Chloe Kirsten
D: Courtney Suhr
MF: Kayla Floyd
MF: Juliana Park
MF: Keira Kelly
MF: Megan Hines
F: Laney Stark
F: Rian Spaulding
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Laney Stark, sr., F, St. Charles North

Scoring summary
First half
Naperville Central: Malia Shen (Burke), 15’
Second half
St. Charles North: Kayla Floyd (Suhr), 54’
Naperville Central: Emerson Burke (Brozek), 58’
St. Charles North: Stark (Kelly), 64’
St. Charles North: Kayla Floyd (Park), 67’
St. Charles North: Juliana Park (unassisted), 70’