ETHS Women’s Soccer: Wildkits Finish 4th in State Tournament
NAPERVILLE — Sometimes the sheer ability to continue playing the game the same way you played it during the regular season is what separates true champions from the rest of a state tournament.
The Evanston girls couldn’t find a way to make it here this weekend and fell short of their goal of winning the program’s second state football title.
Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Lincoln-Way Central in the third place game at the Illinois High School Association Class 3A State Tournament at North Central College sent a remarkable and talented Wildkit team on a losing note .
After also losing 2-0 to Barrington in Friday’s semi-final, Evanston lost as many games last weekend as the Wildkits have lost all season. The flat end to one of the best seasons in program history left coach Stacy Salgado’s team with a final record of 21-4-1.
Even the fact that the ETHS girls took home a state trophy for only the second time offered little consolation to a tearful group of 13 seniors.
The trophy they wanted was the one that matched the 2002 state championship team.
“Can we celebrate fourth place? We can celebrate a great season,” Salgado said. “Obviously that’s not how we wanted it to end. Overall, I think they’ve all done very well this season to put themselves in a position to win a state title. Few teams can say the same.
“You always want to peak at the end of the season, but it’s hard to do that in the state tournament when you have a lot of soreness and not everyone is 100 percent. [physically]. They are a very special group of seniors and the experience of being here with them has been great.
Salgado had to dig deep into his side’s bench for the final due to injuries. Defender Sarah Sollinger was already out after suffering a broken collarbone in the sectional final, and midfielder Adriana Merriam (back) and goalkeeper Ariel Kite (ribs) were also forced to watch from the goal line. touches.
Evanston scored all four goals of the weekend from set pieces – corner kicks or restarts – and for the first time this season he looked disorganized in defence. Shea Ackman, who stepped in to replace Sollinger in the starting lineup, was too ill (fever, flu-like symptoms) to start Friday’s game and the Wildkits quickly fell behind with various defenders in place against a Barrington corner.
On offense, Evanston couldn’t do anything in both games until second Jocelyn Leigh scored his team-leading 27th goal with 2 minutes and 20 seconds left in the game for third place.
“It’s a bit difficult to celebrate now because we had high hopes,” admitted senior striker Nadia Van den Berg. “It’s disappointing – but it’s also cool to be fourth in the state.
“We lost a lot of key players, and I agree, we didn’t play the way we’ve played all season. We didn’t use yesterday’s loss as motivation, and it was almost like if we somehow forgot how to play We just dropped collectively as a team.
“All those goals we conceded were from set pieces and that’s what’s really disappointing. We gave away so many corners and we were super disorganized when we tried to defend them. We didn’t score them, we did not take the initiative of the defense.
“It’s difficult because all the seniors have been playing together since we were little. From the start, we talked about winning the state this year. Now I keep thinking what if, what if? But there’s no point thinking like that. »
Lincoln-Way Central, who fell to eventual champion Metea Valley 2-0 in the other semi-final, broke through for the game’s first goal in the 12th minute. A corner attempt from Grace Grundhofer of the Knights caught new ETHS goaltender Shea Lucas and the rest of the defense out of position. No one covered the back post and the shot deflected off the bar and into the net.
Lucas, a sophomore, played just the third college game of her career – and that included just 30 seconds of playing time in Friday’s semifinals when Kite briefly went to the bench after being hit alongside. Lucas finished with three saves and kept the Knights scoreless until midway through the second half, when a throw-in from Grundhofer led to a goal from teammate Madisyn Kenworthy.
Evanston, meanwhile, managed just five shots on goal and three off target.
“I think our goaltender did well,” Salgado said. “That second goal came on a loose ball in the box. Lincoln-Way is very solid in the air and they played a compact, composed style. They made it hard for us to break through, although it was good to have that one at the end.
“Adrian [Merriam] couldn’t play at all and it was a huge loss for us in midfield. She’s a player who can let the defense guess and she’s usually able to spring our outside attackers [for successful scoring runs].”
Friday’s loss to Barrington found the Wildkits on their heels early on, when The Fillies’ Kate Lubinsky scored with just 3:22 left in the contest. Nicole Gwiasada added an insurance goal for Barrington in the 49th minute.
“That first goal hurt us,” Salgado said. “It really shook us up. And we struggled with the constant pressure they brought.
“We worked against those corners just yesterday and we’ve gotten better over the season. Barrington are probably the most consistent side we’ve played all season. They’re very good in the air and they were able to quickly clear our through balls.
“If we had gone out and played our game we would have been fine, but we didn’t.”