SCHAUMBURG – Cece Wahlberg admitted it was on her mind.
Just a couple weeks ago, Batavia handed Wahlberg and St. Charles North their only loss of the season. As much as Tuesday afternoon gave St. Charles North a chance at revenge, Wahlberg had much bigger things on her mind.
“You can’t say you don’t think about it,” Wahlberg said. “But you have to come into games like this with a clean slate. The bottom line is that we don’t want this season to end. At this point in the season, if you want to keep playing, you have to have all your focus on the game you’re in, in that moment, no matter who is on the other side of the field.”
Wahlberg was in center of the action Tuesday, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in North’s 3-1 victory over the Bulldogs at the Class 3A Schaumburg Sectional semifinals.
The senior midfielder’s first-half goal was sandwiched by two from teammates Anna Weyman and Sami Rydberg to give the North Stars (18-1-2) a three-goal advantage less than midway through the first half.
Although Batavia (17-5-2) answered just 31 seconds after Rydberg’s goal, on a penalty kick by CeCe Hamann, North shut the door for most of the second half to earn the right to play for its fourth consecutive sectional title.
“After the fact, you can see it feels a little like revenge to get that win back when it really matters,” Rydberg said. “But coming into this game, we weren’t really looking at it as a revenge type of game. It was just another game that we simply had to win.”
This time out, however, North made sure to leave no doubts as its pressure was evident from the opening kickoff. Senior Claudia Najera created the opening scoring chance. Her shot was originally saved by Batavia goalkeeper Hailey Flannagan, but popped directly up in the air. Her bicycle-kick cross across the goal mouth bounced once before Weyman headed into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Wahlberg’s left-footed volley and Rydberg getting to a loose ball before it crossed the goal line gave the North Stars the confidence that a one-loss team probably didn’t need, but took full advantage of.
While Batavia initially answered the quick North surge – capping a three-goal flurry over 1:25 stretch – North coach Brian Harks thought his team’s experience allowed it to stay poised in a situation that may have been hectic to others.
“It’s easy to get deflated when you let up a goal quickly after you score,” Harks said. “But I thought our girls didn’t lose focus, they didn’t get frustrated, but we’ve been there before. Instead of getting down of letting it affect them, they kept grinding and had a lot of fun of there today and it showed.”
Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco thought it was just a matter of the North Stars playing better than his team did Tuesday, plain and simple.
“Today, we just didn’t have it,” Gianfrancesco said. “Some of it was (St. Charles North) and some of it was us. That doesn’t take away from a great season. There were many celebrations and so many players that had a hand in the experience.”
Flannagan made five saves in goal, while freshman Aubrey Hahn finished with five second-half saves during her scoreless second half in net for the Bulldogs. North goalkeeper Sara Maleski, who made a diving save midway through the second half to preserve the two-goal lead, finished with two saves.
North will take on crosstown rival St. Charles East in Saturday’s sectional championship. The North Stars have beaten East twice this season – both times by a 2-1 score on April 6 and April 23.