Last season, the Evanston Township High School girls soccer team won the Maine East Regional title but lost to Loyola Academy in the Maine South Sectional semifinals to finish with an overall record of 19-6.
Head Coach Maurizio Grillo hopes this season his team can improve on that and advance to at least the Sectional round if not further. The Wildkits should be in position to accomplish that, given the experience on the roster and their overall desire to win, the Coach said.
“We only graduated seven players last year, so we have a lot of returning starters,” said Coach Grillo, who is entering his third season in Evanston. “The expectation is to increase our 19-6 [record]. We want to do better than our record last year of 19-6 and we want to get to Sectionals or Supersectionals.
“From a talent perspective, we have got as much as we want but the biggest strength is the desire they have to win and keep winning and keep improving from last year, the Coach said. “We love how we are playing, we love the fact that we are winning games, we love that we are dominating, and they want to keep doing that as much as they can.”
For the Kits to advance through Regionals and get to Sectionals, Coach Grillo feels the key is to win as many games as possible to secure the best possible seed, which will make the road to Sectionals easier. “Winning a lot of games during the season gave us a great seed [last season], and that put us in a great position to get to Sectionals,” the Coach said.
“The good results throughout the season gave us a really strong seed and put us in a good position. So the plan is to win as many games as possible during the season and get as high of a seed as we can, and avoid some of those big names that we do not want to play against or that we would rather not play against,” he added.
But when asked which teams or tournaments he is looking forward to, the Coach mentioned the Pepsi Showdown tournament from April 11-19 and the Barrington Tournament on April 24 and 25.
“The Barrington tournament is always an incredibly difficult one. Also, the Pepsi Showdown tournament was really fun for us last year and we won [third place] and got to play at Toyota Park,” said Coach Grillo. “So that was a great performance for us…and we are looking forward to that tournament [again this year] because it was a great experience and we know that we should be seeded fairly high, and we want to show everybody that [last year’s performance] was not a coincidence and [the third place finish]was deserved. So we are looking forward to that tournament again.”
Other key matchups on the schedule include a rematch of the Sectional semifinal against Loyola Academy on March 28, Glenbrook South on April 21 and New Trier on April 28. Coach Grillo is confident in his team’s ability to take on any team and come away victorious.
“We are [a] strong [team], we are going to respect everybody, [but] the way things are looking right now, we are not really afraid of anybody,” he said. “We respect New Trier, we respect Loyola and GBS, but right now the way we are feeling, we are not really afraid of any of them at this point anymore, and we are looking forward and are eager to play them as soon as possible.”
As Coach Grillo pointed out, the Kits have a number of returning players on this year’s team including sophomore Maia Cella and junior Kira Favakeh. “We have some big expectations for Maia, who was an All-Conference player last year. As a freshman, she had 17 goals and we are hoping she can improve that this year,” said Coach Grillo. “[Also] Kira had nine goals last year as a sophomore, so we are hoping she will step up and deliver some big goals. But really, the whole offensive unit has to show up.”
In the season opener against Lakes on March 19, the Kits got just enough from that offensive unit as they squeaked by with a 1-0 victory. Junior Alex Berkley tallied the lone goal in the game. Then on March 21, they took on Mundelein and beat the Mustangs by a score of 2-0. Maia and junior Nora Mertz provided the scoring for the Kits, who improved to 2-0 on the season.
“We played a nice, solid game,” said Coach Grillo regarding his team’s performance against Mundelein. “We controlled [possession] for the vast majority of the game, so it was a nice, solid 2-0 win.”
Next up, the Kits were set to take on Von Steuben on March 23 in the home opener at Lazier Field in Evanston. Regarding Von Steuben, the Coach said, “We do not know much about them, so we are going to go full out, extremely serious, because we have never played them before, and we are just going to play it with our maximum effort.”
After Von Steuben, the Kits take on Whitney Young on March 25, Glenbrook North on March 26 and then Loyola Academy on March 28.