Evanston’s soccer players celebrated Senior Night with a piece of cake Tuesday night at the conclusion of the regular season at Lazier Field.
And the way the Wildkits are playing, there may be bigger celebrations ahead of them.
Coach Franz Calixte’s squad finished off one of the best regular seasons in school history — and that’s saying a lot considering the ETHS tradition of soccer success — by blanking Stevenson 4-0 behind two goals from Erick Balthazar.
The Kits will take a 17-1-3 overall record into postseason play next week at the Loyola Academy Regional tournament and have surrendered just one goal since a season-opening 2-2 tie with Conant. Tuesday’s triumph marked their 19th shutout of the season, just three shy of the school record of 22 set in 1995 and four short of the state record of 23 established by Granite City South in 1982.
Evanston hasn’t allowed a goal since a 1-0 defeat at Waukegan on Sept. 24, running their string of consecutive shutouts to 10 Tuesday as senior goalie Adam Masters was credited with 4 saves. But good as Masters and the defenders in front of him — particularly Henry Young, Henry Honzel and Zane Kashner — have been all season, it’s Evanston’s improvement on offense that is most encouraging for Calixte.
After a series of 1-0 wins this fall, the Kits have scored a combined 10 goals down the stretch in wins over Deerfield, Lake Forest and Stevenson and should have momentum on both sides of the ball entering Class 3A regional play next Tuesday at 5 p.m. against the Notre Dame-Chicago Taft winner.
Besides Balthazar’s two goals Tuesday, Jesus Villasenor tallied on a penalty kick and a corner kick by Christyan De La Cruz accounted for the other goal when his shot bounced off a Patriot defender and found the back of the net. All four of Evanston’s goals came in the second half.
“We really felt it today. The senior class really embraced the fact that this was their last game at Lazier Field,” Calixte said. “You know, we thought last year’s senior class was pretty special, and these guys are proving that they’re just as special.
“We talk a lot about playing disciplined soccer and we’re in no rush to score out there. They’re still getting used to each other because both Erick (Balthazar) and Chuy (Villasenor) have both missed a chunk of games. We’ve always had someone missing, it seems, but now we’re healthy. And on offense we’re creating a lot more opportunities, more chances to score. Early in the year we had games where we only had one or two chances to score.”
Balthazar, who leads the team in scoring with 16 goals this season, broke the scoreless deadlock in the 44th minute when he deflected a shot by Adam Trujillo past the Stevenson keeper. Nine minutes later, Villasenor buried his PK and the victory was assured.
As in the past two postseasons, Evanston owns the No. 1 sectional seed. The 2013 and 2014 squads both lost in the sectional title game and that’s a hurdle the current Kits will have to get over to make the season even more special.
“The other two years we expected to be the No. 1 seed right from the start of the season, but we didn’t expect it this year,” the coach pointed out. “When you have the No. 1 seed the bullseye is on your back, and it’s always hard.
“We have to take it one game at a time. But these guys are so disciplined, and they all know their roles. We’ll have even more success if they just play the way they have all year.”