The fire hydrant trophy is back where it belongs.
Now Evanston’s soccer team must wait another 24 hours to see if they can claim another trophy — emblematic of the Central Suburban League South division championship.
Senior Erick Balthazar’s goal in the 76th minute rallied the Wildkits to a 1-0 victory over arch-rival New Trier Monday night at Lazier Field in front of an appreciative crowd of players from the Team Evanston feeder program.
The win pushed ETHS (10-1-2 overall) past Maine South in the division standings with a 3-1-1 record and 10 points to Maine South’s 8. The Kits can earn the title if South either loses to or ties Waukegan on Tuesday night.
But if coach Franz Calixte’s squad has to settle just for possession of the fire hydrant trophy that is awarded to the team that prevails in the head-to-head rivalry, it wouldn’t dampen the celebration the Kits enjoyed Monday. The victory kept Evanston ahead in the all-time series with 41 victories to 39 for New Trier. There have been 21 ties between the two rivals.
The two teams seemed destined to battle to another tie, especially after Trevian goalie Sam Rutherford saved a penalty kick by Balthazar with a diving effort to his right side midway through the second half.
But Balthazar knew he’d get another chance.
“It’s a great feeling!” exclaimed Balthazar after scoring the game-winner and living up to his family’s reputation as “New Trier killers.” Balthazar and cousin Oli Jacques both tallied goals in last year’s win over the Trevians during the regular season, and older brother Jonathan also found the back of the net to beat New Trier as a senior.
“I remembered that we scored late on them last year and I knew it wasn’t over until the last minute. I just had to keep playing my hardest and keep my head high. That’s the motivation my teammates gave me. They said it’s coming back to you, you’re going to redeem yourself. I knew I’d get one more opportunity.”
Balthazar created a corner kick opportunity with his hustle, then poked a short corner pass to teammate Jesus Villasenor. Villasenor served the ball into the box, and after Rutherford stopped a blast from Josh Klier, Balthazar banged the rebound home.
“We just had to get that hydrant back,” Balthazar said. “In the first half I didn’t get too many touches, but in the second half the coaches switched me to a wing. That was a great stop on the PK. I was 3-for-3 on PKs before this, and that’s the side I usually go to, but he got it.”
“Erick is a very resilient player, and if anyone can miss a PK and bounce back, it’s Erick,” Calixte said. “It’s a family thing for the Balthazars whenever they play New Trier. We work on that short corner play because we always want to have that as an option, but it’s up to the players to read that. Erick did a great job on that play.
“If you had told me in the preseason that we’d be in the conference race right up to the last game, I don’t know if I’d have believed it. But these guys believe in themselves and they believe in our system. And we got all that support from the feeder players tonight, and that helped make it a great night. I think the crowd helped us get past the hump tonight.”
So did goalie Adam Masters. He recorded a season-best 10 saves, the biggest one coming with 7 minutes, 20 seconds remaining against New Trier sophomore Jo Jo Farina. Farina fired from point blank range after a rare breakdown by the ETHS defense, but Masters kicked the ball away off his knee to keep the shutout intact.
“Adam didn’t just have saves for us tonight, he had momentum-changing saves,” Calixte pointed out. “He played like the All-Stater that he is. He earned that shutout tonight.”