The sting of a season-ending defeat is never easy for any high school team to absorb.
But Saturday’s 1-0 loss to long-time rival New Trier at the Class 3A soccer sectional tournament championship game at Niles North hurt more than most, because it ended a successful two-year run by a special class of Evanston seniors.
Or, as a disappointed ETHS head coach Franz Calixte so aptly put it, “They deserve some more trophies.”
Instead, a goal by New Trier’s Colin Egerter in the 46th minute helped the second-seeded Trevians (21-3-2) avenge a regular season loss to the top-seeded Wildkits and advance to next Tuesday’s Barrington Supersectional.
Evanston (16-3-4) exited postseason play at the sectional tourney finals level for the second straight year, calling a halt to their respective high school careers for 14 seniors who lost only 5 games combined over the past two years.
Two regional championships and one Central Suburban League South division title over that two-year stretch don’t tell the full story of just how close this group came to breaking through and winning the first Illinois High School Association state title in program history.
“No disrespect to some of the other teams, but I think the state finals were played today,” said Calixte. “I’ll be surprised if New Trier doesn’t win State now.
“It’s hard to lose to New Trier and it just shows that it’s hard to beat a good team twice. New Trier has five great forwards that they rotate in and we decided we weren’t going to get beat by those forwards — and we didn’t. I don’t know if there’s a defense anywhere that could stop those forwards like we did. We go down (eliminated) on an amazing goal by a defender. We’ve got nothing to hang our heads about.
“This is a special class of seniors. They’re great soccer players, great students, great leaders, just a great group of people. I’ve said this before, I know, but the reason I tried to bring my (9-year-old) son to as many practices and games as I could this year is because they’re such class acts that I wanted him to be able to look up to them.”
Evanston outplayed the Trevians for much of the first half and an early offensive spurt by junior forward Erick Balthazar, one of only three underclassmen in the starting lineup, gave Wildkit fans hope for a quick lead.
But New Trier goalie Jonathan Jaggard (6 saves) withstood that early barrage and the Kits never did find the back of the net.
Evanston defenders Bret Lowry, Mark Roth, Ben Osterlund and Ben Rogan kept New Trier off the board and midfielders Kepler Worobec and Chris Vergara also shined for the losers.
After Muyres converted a free ball that was pinballing around Evanston’s final one-third of the field, ETHS didn’t go down without a fight. The Wildkits forced a total of six restarts — including four corner kicks — and both Balthazar and Vergara had opportunities to beat Jaggard.
Balthazar nudged a soft shot through a crowd in front of the goal that Jaggard handled easily with 17 and a half minutes left in the contest. Five minutes later, Vergara drilled a laser that Jaggard grabbed on one hop.
“We were a very dangerous team this year, but we didn’t put in a lot of goals,” Calixte admitted.