ST. CHARLES – Bella Najera personally extended her sophomore year Tuesday evening in St. Charles.
In the process, the St. Charles North soccer forward helped debunk the long-standing adage of the difficulty of a high school team defeating a conference rival for a third time in the same season.
Scoring back-to-back goals in less than a seven-minute span to break a scoreless second-half draw against Wheaton Warrenville South, Najera powered the North Stars’ girls soccer team to a 2-1 victory at the Class 3A Bartlett sectional.
St. Charles North (14-4-2), the No. 2 seed, draws another DuKane Conference rival in St. Charles East on Friday afternoon.
The top-seeded Saints defeated St. Charles North twice in regular-season play.
Third-seeded WW South had its season end at 13-7.
“We knew we had to get going after the break,” Najera said of an interminable first-half considerably elongated by a freakish one-hour weather delay.
WW South was aesthetically perhaps the sounder team over the first 45-plus minutes.
But Najera single-handedly altered the North Stars’ destiny with straight-away goals from 20 and 15 yards, respectively.
“They came out tough,” Najera said. “It was tough with all the breaks. The second-half talk was really important. We got our heads into it and really got going.”
Najera broke the ice with 30 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the second half; the sophomore doubled the North Stars’ lead to 2-nil at 23:49 remaining.
Senior Grace Barresi anchored the North Stars’ defensive back line.
“We were like, ‘Let’s forget we beat them twice,’” Barresi said. “‘Let’s get after them a third time because you never know.’”
WW South may have looked better possessing the ball in the first two-thirds of the contest, but the North Stars’ owned an 11-6 advantage in shots when Najera rifled a ball of the fingertips of a leaping Tigers’ keeper at the goal mouth.
In addition to Najera, the North Stars’ Talia Pellegrini had multiple good looks at padding the St. Charles North advantage.
But the senior midfielder had all of her shots either tantalize a post or come into the vicinity of WW South keeper Caroline Spayth.
The Tigers would not go quietly, however, on offense.
Seventeen seconds inside the soccer equivalent of the two-minute warning, the Tigers’ Elise Farrell rifled home an improbable rocket from 30-plus yards away to halve the WW South deficit.
The Tigers would have one final shot on goal, but St. Charles North keeper Kara Claussner snared the ball with little exertion.
“I was originally playing defense and I knew we needed a goal,” Farrell said. “I really wanted (a goal) for our seniors.”