Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Bella Najera leaves her mark at St. Charles North

Michigan State recruit led North Stars to sectional title, scored 20 goals

St. Charles North’s Bella Najera celebrates her game-winning goal during a Class 3A West Chicago Sectional semifinal against Geneva on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

ST. CHARLES – Growing up, Bella Najera had a front row seat to the high standards of the St. Charles North soccer program.

She was a ball girl on the sidelines.

Najera, a St. Charles North three-year varsity star who graduated this spring, essentially was part of the program before she even reached high school. Her sister Claudia, a 2019 North graduate, set a path before her as a high school star. So did her brother Alex in baseball.

It was Bella’s turn to forge her legacy.

“St. Charles North is a really good school for athletics and academics and I think me being the youngest of my siblings, I saw how their path went through high school,” Najera said. “I wanted to follow that and do better than that, especially my sister, I wanted to do better than her. Watching them helped me a lot. I think the Najera legacy was really cool for North because we all did really good in our sports.

“I knew what to expect, the high level the program has. [Claudia] definitely helped me out a lot, especially during the summers. I would train with her and a bunch of her teammates, so that definitely helped me grow into the player that I am.”

Najera, a two-time DuKane Conference Player of the Year and 2023 Golden Boot Winner, scored 20 goals and had nine assists for the sectional champion North Stars this season. Najera was named a United Soccer Coaches All-American and will continue her athletic career at Michigan State University in the fall.

For her accomplishments, Najera is the 2023 Kane County Chronicle Girls Soccer Player of the Year after leading the North Stars to a 17-4-2 record and helping them reach a supersectional for the first time since 2019. The program won four consecutive sectional titles from 2016-19 before the spring season was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“One of the things that didn’t really stand out to me until after the sectional final game [this season] was we kind of had that tradition of where it was just almost commonplace where we were going to win a sectional and make it to the supersectional. We were in four straight supersectional games,” St. Charles North coach Brian Harks said. “Since [the canceled 2020 season], we hadn’t been to any, so when this group of girls won that sectional title this year, it [reset the bar] carrying on the [winning] traditions. It was a three-year process.

“I think Bella was one of our driving forces because she had grown up around these amazing teams and she knew where we needed to be. She wanted to be the one to take us there. Obviously, it wasn’t only her, there were a lot of really nice players on our team. Bella was such a fantastic leader and I think she [helped] elevate so many of her teammates around her.”

The North Stars lost to Barrington in the supersectional, but defeated DuKane Conference teams in the regional final (Wheaton Warrenville South), sectional semifinal (Geneva) and sectional final (St. Charles East).

The North Stars haven’t lost a regional final game in 20 seasons.

“I think our team this year was really special because we had a small roster, so I think that really helped us connect with one another,” Najera said. “We were all tight on and off the field, which really helped. I think in the postseason run, we were very focused, especially in the [sectional games]. It really showed how hard we worked because we were motivated throughout the whole game, even the last six seconds [of the sectional final against St. Charles East on the tying goal]. We didn’t stop.”

“One of her greatest qualities is she was an excellent teammate,” Harks said. “Not just that, but she was an excellent representative of our school community. She was at all of the basketball games, boys and girls, baseball games, football games. She was an amazing athletics supporter.”