After falling one victory short of winning the Illinois High School Association Class 3A Evanston Regional title last season, the Evanston Township High School girls’ soccer team hopes to avenge that shortcoming by having a solid 2014 season and re-establish themselves as a top team once again.
"One of the [goals] we care about most is to re-establish ourselves in the Central Suburban League Conference and in the IHSA tournament as a contending team," said Head Coach Maurizio Grillo.
So far so good, as the Wildkits have won five of their first six games. After shutting out Lakes in the season opener on March 21 and Whitney Young on March 26, each by 3-0 tallies, the Kits fell to Loyola on March 29, 1-0. From there, the Kits bounced back on April 1 and beat Mundelein, 1-0, to improve to 3-1 overall. In that game, senior Ryan Berkley scored the game’s only goal at the 15- minute mark of the first half and they were able to hang on from there, giving the Kits their third shutout of the season.
It was a really difficult game. We knew it coming in and we had prepared all weekend on it," said Grillo. "Mundelein played a similar style of soccer and they were technically and tactically well-coached."
Regarding Berkley’s performance, Grillo said, "Ryan is currently suffering from a back injury. Rather a discomfort I would say, that I feel is holding her back from playing at maximum potential." He added, "Needless to say, I feel that she can be a key player. So with that in mind, during a game I try to give her as much time and rest as possible."
Regarding her goal, Grillo said, "[That play] is something that we had planned in the pregame walkthrough. We did not want to give Mundelein a reference point of what kind of attack we were going to display, so I asked the girls to keep on switching between far shots and possession attacking." He added, "The goal was generated from one of the outside shots."
After beating Mundelein, the Kits took on Stevenson on April 3 and beat the Patriots, 2-0 at Lazier Field in Evanston. In that game, freshman Maia Cella scored in the fifteenth minute after she stole the ball and took it in from 15 yards out to give the Kits a 1-0 lead. The Kits extended the lead to 2-0 in the 58th minute when Cella headed it to senior Morgan Muno, who put it past Stevenson’s goalie, thus clinching the victory for the Kits.
The next day, the Kits beat Glenbrook North 4-0 in the CSL Crossover. With the victory, the Kits improved to 5-1 overall, which pleases Grillo, but he says his team can still play better. "We have started [the season] with good results, but we are still far from playing at peak potential," said the Coach. "We are working hard in practice so I am sure we should be seeing the results of this hard work soon."
In order for the Kits to keep up the high-quality play they have displayed early on, Grillo says the key is to keep working hard in practice. "We are going to continue to push ourselves hard in practice as we are fueled by an incredible desire to improve and achieve [success on the field]."
Next up, while ETHS is on spring break, the Kits were scheduled to travel to Alabama to take on Spain High School on April 8, then Oak Mountain High School on April 10.
Regarding the trip, Grillo said, "The Alabama trip was mostly scheduled because we wanted to continue to practice in a warm environment instead of having to stop practices for spring break. We are curious to see what kind of effect that is going to have on the remainder of the season from a physical and conditioning point of view." He added, "With that in mind, we wanted to make this experience still fun since it is spring break. We are going to practice daily and play two games against the 2012 and 2013 state champions."
Once they return from Alabama, they travel to Schaumburg to participate in the Pepsi Showdown on April 12 followed by a matchup with Niles North on April 14.