Expections haven’t changed for St. Charles North

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When it comes to the IHSA postseason constellation, St. Charles North has been as constant as, well, the North Star.

Since the inception of Class 3A in 2009, coach Ruth Vostal’s program has finished second in 2012, third in 2010 and was one win shy of the Final Four last spring. At the very least, St. Charles North has reached sectionals.

But after losing the Courier-News Player of the Year for the last two seasons — Alex Gage in 2013 and Lauren Koehl in 2012 — is the roster turnover finally too much for the North Stars to again be shining in late May?

“We’re half returnees and half newcomers, but the North Star tradition is always to merge the two,” junior Hanna Durocher said. “The older players have always led and helped the newcomers make the transition.”

“It’s always a domino effect,” senior Alyssa Brandt said. “The veterans know what to expect and step up initially while the newcomers learn to fill their roles, but in the end we become the best team we can be.”

Essentially, that echoes what Vostal believes heading into her 14th campaign.

“Our expectations don’t change,” she said. “From the foundation of our youth programs forward, we always expect to compete. I prefer to believe we don’t rebuild but instead reload. We always know there is a lot of work to do.”

The only area player to earn Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association All-State honors, Gage left a gap as notable as her team-highs for points (41) and goals scored (16). She was one of five graduates who moved to the collegiate level.

“No doubt we lost a lot of impact players, but teams always have to adapt, so we’ll just push each other to score and work harder,” said Durocher, third on the team ilast year n goals (eight), right behind Brandt (nine), andsecond for points (25).

“Thanks to the weather, all teams have the same initial challenge of making the switch from practicing indoors to playing outside,” Brandt noted. “Inside, the ball bounces higher and harder so it forces you to work on control and helps develop your passing. But obviously you can’t work on the long game or go 11-v-11, and that hinders your field vision.”

While Gage and Kelly Manski are gone, a third member last year’s All-Area team brightens North’s outlook. Goalkeeper Shelby Stitz chalked up 16 shutouts as a sophomore during the 19-4-1 season.

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