Coach: Ruth Vostal
Carly Dietrich Sr., GK
Shelby Stitz Fr., GK
Alex Gage Jr., D
Amanda Soukup Sr., D
Natalie Winkates Jr., M
Danielle Noverini So., F
Ashlyn Walter So., F
Jenny Barr So., M
Alyssa Brandt So., M
Jorie Clawson Jr., D
Melissa Bronke Jr., F
Carleigh Dusek Sr., M/F
Stefanie Schroeder Jr., F
Lisa Manski Sr., D/M
Kelly Manski Jr., M/F
Megan O'Leary So., D
Kenzie Rose Jr., D/M
Darcy Stoecklin So., D
Sophie Pohl So., F
Lauren Koehl Sr., F
Lauren Durocher Jr., M

North Stars top DGS, head to state title game
By Gary Larsen


St. Charles North goalkeeper Carly Dietrich will take the most important nap of her high school career on Saturday.

It will be in preparation to play in the Class 3A state title game.

“I always play better when I take a nap on the day of the game,” Dietrich said. “(Coach Ruth) Vostal always tells us not to take naps, but I have to. Even my dad is like ‘go take your nap’. I don’t know what it is, but I play better if I do.”

Distilling St. Charles North’s 2-1 state semifinal win over Downers Grove South to its key elements might start first with the job Dietrich and her side defending against one of the most dangerous set piece teams in Illinois.

Mustangs' corner kicks and Jessica Bronke throw-ins have regularly found the head of striker Sarrah Ludwig throughout the postseason, but Dietrich was aggressive off her line whenever she had to be in making sure her side didn’t fall victim to a game-turning Mustangs’ head shot.

“Winning those high balls against them was huge for us,” Dietrich said. “It’s just instinctive for me to come out like that. I’m the one that can reach highest, I can use my hands, I can jump, so if it goes in it’s probably my fault. It was a little nerve-wracking in the last nine minutes but it’s just an instinctive thing, for me to go get the ball. That’s my job.”

Also playing big defensively was not-so-big North Stars junior Alex Gage, who defies a height disadvantage about as well as it can be defied. Gage was instrumental in keeping Ludwig off the board on Saturday.

“I felt confident that we knew where their strengths were,” Vostal said. “I thought Alex Gage came up big. As small as she is, she’s able to compete with Sarrah (Ludwig) in the air and I thought she did an awesome job.”

Gage wasn’t about to take full credit for the job the North Stars did in stopping Ludwig on Saturday.

“We knew (Ludwig) was a great player,” Gage said. “She’s big, tall, she’s got a great head and we practiced double man-marking her. I had Kenzie (Rose) with me, and Lauren (Koehl) with me, and I just had to get in front of her. And it’s timing. It’s all timing.”

Not to be lost in the North Stars’ win was the two goals they got from Lauren Koehl and Sophie Pohl, the assists that Gage and Kelly Manski chipped in, and an attack that took the fight to Downers South for a good portion of the night.

St. Charles North beat DG South 1-0 way back on March 28 in a game the Mustangs largely controlled. It was a different story in Saturday’s rematch.

“A completely different game and I look at us as a completely different team from then – lineup, players, the way we play, the things we worked on,” Vostal said. “I was confident coming in that we had changed and improved, but I knew that they had as well. I knew it would be a good game.

“You get into this kind of environment and it comes down to fight and heart, or some player making an outstanding goal.”

Dietrich summed up her side’s attack well. “They were just tenacious tonight,” she said. “As soon as that goal got scored on us, they were not stopping and then I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to win. They didn’t stop (attacking).”

Downers South (19-6-3) grabbed a 1-0 lead when Emily Wauer found a wide-open Stephanie Hall, who calmly galloped in alone on Dietrich and scored in the game’s second minute.

St. Charles North (19-5-2) immediately fought back, attacking hard and finding the equalizer at 32 minutes when Gage sent a free kick from long-range towards the left side. The ball came down to Koehl, who fired from 20 yards out to tie the game.

“We haven’t been scored on in five games, which we don’t keep track of that but (reporters) seem to so it keeps coming up,” Vostal said. “So to get down a goal against a team with great offensive threats, and to be strong and to fight back, was just awesome.”

Pohl missed a prime opportunity in the first half but made up for it with the goal that stood up as the game-winner, sending her team to Saturday’s state title game against Naperville North.

Five minutes into the second half, Pohl took a Manski cross and buried it for her 7th goal of the season. Koehl’s tally was her 23rd of the year. “I thought Carly came up huge, Alex played awesome, Sophie finding that goal, Lauren consistently finds that goal and I was proud of her, too,” Vostal said.

The North Stars placed third in Illinois two seasons ago and placed second in 2004, and they rose to the occasion of playing on the state’s biggest stage on Saturday.

Gage was a freshman on the third-place team in 2010, and she sees the setting at North Central College as fuel for the fire.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush,” Gage said. “Everyone gets pumped up and it’s great to see the whole team come together. We play better because of it.

As a freshman I didn’t get a lot of time but now being such a part of this team and going this far – it means so much. I can’t put it into words.”

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