The Evanston Township High School girls soccer team has had its ups and downs this season. The Wildkits lost the first two games of the season, and then they went on to win the Palatine Tournament earlier this month. With the season nearing an end, the Kits knew what they had to do to make a long playoff run in the State competition.
“Our biggest problem thus far has been finishing, so we really just need to execute and get some goals,” said senior Lilli Barrett O’Keefe.
On May 11, the Kits beat Waukegan, 10-0. Sophomore Anna Sipple scored two goals and Barrett O’Keefe had one goal and an assist to lead the Kits.
“In the first half [against Waukegan] we did not show up to play, but we came out with much more urgency and intensity in the second half, and we were able to score some quality goals and control most of the play for the rest of the game,” said senior Kate Doyle.
In the regular season finale on May 13 at Lazier Field at Memorial Stadium in Evanston, the Kits lost to St. Charles North, 1-4. “We played some of the best soccer we have all year, and the score is frustrating. It was two pretty evenly matched teams, one had some lucky goals, one not so much. I think if we played them again, the outcome could be very different,” said Barrett-O’Keefe.
With the regular season now finished, Doyle recollected, “We faced a lot of obstacles and challenges this season that began before the teams were even made, and I think that we have become a lot closer as a team and started to develop our own style of play that was not necessarily present in the beginning of the season.”
Barrett-O’Keefe added, “I do feel like this season has been a success. Playoffs are really what counts, and despite our record, we really have come far as a team. Compared to our first practice, we are a whole new team. Our progress and heart have made us a success.”
The Kits ended the season with a 10-10-3 record and that record earned them the fourth seed in the Class 3A playoffs. Evanston hosted their Regional, as part of the Maine South Sectional. Heading into Regionals, Doyle said, “Our main goal for Regionals is obviously to win both games and move on to Sectionals.” She added. “We view the playoffs as the start of a new season, so going in, we would really like to put together everything we’ve been working on all season and play the best we’ve played all season.”
The Kits played 13th seed Taft on May 18 on a cool evening at Lazier Field. The Kits got off to a quick start, with junior Emma Mihevic scoring the first goal 29 seconds into the game. The lead was stretched to 3-0 with Barrett-O’Keefe scoring two consecutive goals. The Kits took a 4-0 lead into halftime and that was more than enough for the Kits to advance to the Regional championship, winning the game, 9-0.
Since Lane Tech beat Lincoln Park in their first round matchup, the Kits were set for a game under the lights at Lazier Field against the Indians of Lane Tech on May 21.
Once again, the Kits scored first, but this time, Lane answered. The Indians scored their first goal off a penalty kick after a collision near the goal with just over five minutes remaining in the half. At halftime, the score was 1-1. In the second half, Lane took a 2-1 lead, scoring almost five minutes into the half. Then with just under 17 minutes left in the game, the Kits tied the game 2-2. The teams remained deadlocked the rest of the way, forcing an overtime.
In the first overtime session, the Kits had chances to win the game, but they were unable to capitalize. Lane was unable to get the ball past Kits’ goalie Jackie Schultz. In the second overtime, Lane scored the “golden goal,” winning the game, 3-2, thus ending the Kits’ season.
“The Lane game could not have been more upsetting. It was just so unexpected, I really did not think we were going to pack up our bags that night,” said Barrett’ O’Keefe. She added, “I feel that we under-estimated our opponent and came out a little too relaxed. The game could have gone either way, and, sadly, luck was not on our side. We didn’t play our game that night, and it cost us the season.”
Even though the Kits did not get as far as they would have liked, Barrett- O’Keefe thinks the team should have a strong season next spring. “I thought the season went well, I think it did end too abruptly. I hope that next year the team is even closer and more in sync. Even though us seniors won’t be around next year, I think our team unity is evident and will roll over to next spring.”