Girls soccer: Spaulding’s wild first-minute score helps St. Charles North to 1-0 victory over St. Charles East

North Stars will face Wheaton North in sectional title match

St. Charles North players (left to right) Kaitlin Glenn, Rian Spaulding, Kayla Floyd and Laney Stark celebrate their win over St. Charles East in a Class 3A South Elgin Sectional semifinal game on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

SOUTH ELGIN — St. Charles North’s lone goal of the game could only be described in one way.

Right place, right time.

After the ball took a wild bounce past St. Charles East goalkeeper Sidney Lazenby, who was attempting to clear the ball downfield, forward Rian Spaulding found herself with a ball, a goal, and no defenders in sight.

“I just saw the ball in a lot of space between me and the goal and knew that I had to put it in the back of the net,” Spaulding said.

And she did just that.

Her goal just 53 seconds into the game was all that the North Stars would need to secure a trip back to the sectional finals, as they downed the Saints once again in a 1-0 victory Tuesday.

It’s the second game in a row in which the North Stars have gotten a board less than a minute after the first whistle was blown, as Juliana Park found the back of the net in 41 seconds against Batavia.

And against a heated rival like East, Spaulding said that it was just the confidence booster that the team needed.

“We just had to keep our foot on the gas and keep it going for the entire half,” Spaulding said. “Obviously Lazenby is an amazing goalie so that really boosted our confidence when we scored.”

After getting a goal that early into the game, the final 79 minutes fell into the North Stars’ defense’s hands, and they delivered. North coach Brian Harks said after the game that his back line still continues to impress him after each outing.

“They just play with such discipline and composure even in stressful situations,” Harks said. “The center backs do a good job keeping everyone organized, and the outside backs add a nice element of playing out of the back, composure and playing 1-on-1.”

North will face off with top-seeded Wheaton North in the sectional finals, which is set to take place 6 p.m. Friday at South Elgin. The two teams faced off back on April 4, where the eventual top two teams in the DuKane conference drew a 1-1 tie at Wheaton North.

“Wheaton North is clearly a talented team. They’re the number one seed for a reason,” Harks said. “They’ve got a really strong goalkeeper and a super talented player up top. So for us, it’s about work rate, fight and the energy that we bring from our entire team.”

East’s season comes to an end with a 16-5-6 record. They also finished with their lowest season goal total (67) since 2017. But following a tough game like that, Saints coach Vince DiNuzzo feels that the team shouldn’t be ashamed of what they did on the pitch.

“I thought we played pretty well tonight, we just couldn’t find a goal in those 79 minutes,” DiNuzzo said. “When you give up a goal like that, it just deflated us. But I think they responded and showed some character in that second half while creating chances even against the wind. But it’s definitely a difficult one to swallow.”

The Saints will be returning a majority of their players next season, but will take some huge blows with the departures of seniors Mackenzie Loomis and Alli Saviano. DiNuzzo said that this season was definitely one that they’ll try to build off of, but it’s just not the result that they wanted at the end of the day.

“I’m happy that the seniors set the standard for this team going forward,” DiNuzzo said. “We have a lot of quality players in the back end. Losing those star players is never easy, but every year it seems like we lose two to five solid players, so I’m confident our kids will step up and find a way.”