Girls Soccer: Christa Szalach’s fourth-overtime smash lifts Naperville North to state title

Story Image Christa Szalach (top left) celebrates with Naperville North teammates Maria Grygleski and Abbie Boswell (5) after she scored the winning goal against St. Charles North with 42 seconds left in the fourth overtime period. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Story Image

Updated: June 3, 2012 2:08PM

Christa Szalach knew time was running out.

“I had to take a shot,” the Naperville North midfielder said. “You can’t win unless you take a shot.”

Taking a beautiful pass from Hunter Drendel, Szalach scored from about 12 yards out in the 119th minute to lift the top-ranked Huskies to a 1-0 Class 3A state championship win over No. 6 St. Charles North Saturday night at North Central College in Naperville.

Szalach’s goal came with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime. “Hunter left me a great ball, and I just knew I had to take a shot,” she said after scoring her eighth goal of the season.

The goal came with Naperville North’s leading scorer, Zoe Swift, on the sideline, nursing a cramp she suffered with about five minutes in the fourth overtime.

Naperville North (24-1-2) went nearly wire-to-wire, opening the season No. 1 and enduring a difficult stretch where it lost to rival Naperville Central on penalty kicks in the finals of the Naperville Invite. The Huskies also tied the Redhawks and Plainfield North.

“We got our redemption,” Szalach said, referring to the team’s 1-0 loss to Granite City in last year’s 3A state final. “That was so hard, to play so well and work so hard to get to the state final and then not win. We didn’t want to go through that again.”

Swift nearly won it late in regulation. But her rebound off an Abbie Boswell shot that hit the crossbar flew over the top of the goal. With Swift out late, Boswell, the team’s second-leading scorer, took over. With under a minute remaining in the fourth overtime, she controlled a loose ball and directed it to Drendel. Her quick maneuver caught the North Stars off balance, and gave Szalach just enough space to fire in the game-winner.

“I knew Christa was behind me,” Drendel said. “I always know where the runners are coming from, and I knew there wasn’t much time, so we had to go quickly.”

“I’m so blessed to be in a situation where I could come in with such a talented group of kids,” first-year Huskies coach Steve Goletz said. “Obviously the program was already established. It’s an amazing feeling.”

The North Stars (19-6-2) fought Naperville North to the wire. Lauren Koehl had one shot hit the crossbar and watched Naperville North keeper Allison Hitchcock make a diving stop early in the fourth overtime.

Downers Grove South edged Glenbrook South 2-1 on penalty kicks for third place.

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