After falling to Deerfield on May 10 by a score of 1-0 in the Central Suburban League crossover game, the Evanston Township High School girls’ soccer team hoped to bounce back against Stevenson on May 12.
The Wildkits did just that, blanking the Patriots 2-0 in the regular season and home finale at Lazier Field in Evanston. That game marked the final time the Kits’ 10 seniors would play on their home turf, which affected the Kits’ performance in the first half, according to head coach Maurizio Grillo. But fortunately, after a halftime pep talk by Coach Grillo, the Kits responded.
“We played with a little too much stress in the first half as there was a lot of emotion and a lot of our seniors wanted to play great [against Stevenson],” said Coach Grillo. “At halftime, [after playing a scoreless half] I told them it is just one game, we won [the CSL South] Conference, we are having a great season and this does not really mean anything for us, so just give it everything you got, show off and make sure these people [in the stands] have fun and I feel that they did that in the second half and the goals came.” The Coach continued, “I am pretty happy with how they played and I think the seniors made a statement and played really good soccer.”
Indeed. Not only did the Kits’ senior goalie Sheridan Cleave shutout the visitors, but both goals scored came from seniors. Kira Favakeh got the Kits on the board with 19:30 left in the second half. Then the Kits extended that lead when Caitlin Dalton scored with 12:58 remaining to make it 2-0, and that was more than enough as the Patriots were unable to put much pressure on the Kits’ defense the rest of the way, allowing them to finish off the victory.
Reagrding Kira’s performance, Coach Grillo said, “That performance was definitely a signature for her and I think she wanted her last game here to be remembered and I think she did, as well as Sheridan, who only had one save, and [senior] Alex [Berkley], and everybody else.”
Regarding his team’s performance against Stevenson, Coach Grillo said, “We [were] coming off the conference win, which was important for us and I think we went into the game against Deerfield a little too relaxed.” The Coach explained, “But what is important about it is we learned from the mistakes we made against Deerfield and we made it a point not to let [those] happen again. So this win [over Stevenson] was important for us as it [was] a nice way to finish the season and we know what we have to do in the next [few] games and we are going to try to do ok.”
With the win, the Kits finished the regular season with an overall record of 17-3-3 and 5-0 in CSL South Conference play. That 5-0 finish in Conference, which was capped off by a 1-0 victory over archrival New Trier on May 7, earned them their first Conference title since 1999 and first win over the Trevians since 2002.
From there, the Kits, who earned the No. 3 seed in the IHSA Class 3A Maine South Sectional, were set to take on No. 14 Steinmetz on May 17 in the opening round of the Niles North Regional. Heading into the postseason, Coach Grillo felt the keys to victory were to remain calm in pressure moments and just play their game. “We know we can compete with anybody and I think the key is to remain positive the whole 80 minutes and be aware that they could be the last 80 minutes without being stressed about it,” the Coach explained. “So we need to just be self-aware of our power and see what every game is going to bring to us.”
Fortunately, the game against Steinmetz brought another victory, as the Kits prevailed by a score of 7-0, thus earning them a spot in the Regional title game on May 20 against Niles West, who prevailed over Niles North 1-0. Should the Kits win the Regional title, they would take on the Maine West Regional winner on May 24 at Maine South.