After beating West Chicago, Loyola, and then tying Glenbrook North in their first three games, the Evanston Township High School girls’ soccer team looked to continue their solid start when they traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to take on Norte Dame Academy on March 30. 

The Wildkits did just that as they beat Notre Dame by a score of 3-1. Goal scorers for the Kits in that game included sophomores Hadley Bushala, and Keara Kerr, along with junior Vanessa Eljaiek. Keara also had two assists in that game and Hadley had one. “The girls were wanting it badly, ND is a traditional state power, and that was a good win after the huge Loyola win,” said first-year head coach Stacy Salgado. “[It is] easy for a team to be motivated against girls they know. [It is] much harder to beat good teams where you have to self-generate the will to win.”

From there, the Kits took on De Pere High School on April 1. In that game, the Kits prevailed once again by a score of 9-2. In that game, Hadley, Vanessa, and sophomore Annika DeStefano scored two goals apiece to lead the Kits’ scoring attack. Also scoring goals in that game were senior Maia Cella, sophomore Mia Roback, and junior Alexa Michel. Regarding her team’s performance against De Pere, Coach Salgado said, “We came out hungry. [That] was a big win against a solid team.” The Coach added, “The girls just would not let down and that was really refreshing to see them want it that badly and to see them keep going regardless of the score.”

With the win over De Pere, the Kits improved to 4-0-1 overall. When asked how the team can maintain this solid level of play for the rest of the season, Coach Salgado said, “I think [we need to] just keep that high level of intensity and [find] ways to finish. I think we start strong and then we kind of let ourselves down if things are not going our way and we have to play through the whole 80 minutes.” 

Regarding which teams or tournaments they are looking forward to, Coach Salgado said, “The PepsiCo showdown [April 8-15], there are always good teams in that tournament and the Naperville tournament [April 27-29]. Teams in that tournament represent some of the top teams in state, participants in that tournament are some of the favorites to win state.  Soccer-talent wise, winning the Naperville tournament may be harder than winning state, given the level of play of all the teams.”

In order for the Kits to be in position to do that, they will be counting on a number of players to step up. Regarding which players in particular, Coach Salgado said, “We have got a pretty solid midfield. Maia is a top player, maybe the most talented player in the state, but we need to help her become the most productive player in the state.” The Coach continued, “Another player who is a returning player and our leading scorer is Vanessa. She is a player who will do anything to get the ball in the back of the net. She puts herself out there, which is great to see.”

Coach Salgado also mentioned Annika, Keara, and Hadley. Regarding those three, the Coach said, “Annika is kind of our controller in the back and center/mid area and she distributes the ball well. Keara came out stronger this year and she is very, very energetic and just leaves it all on the field [and] Hadley is very, very strong up top and has great, tremendous speed and I really hope to utilize her this season.”

The Coach continued, “We already are better utilizing Hadley’s speed and strength up top, and her and Keara’s ability to score or assist will go a long way in determining the success of our team.  Those three, along with our other sophomores starting and/or playing big minutes are benefiting from a big developmental and confidence jump from freshman-sophomore years.”

Next up, the Kits were set to visit Niles North on April 4 followed by a matchup with Whitney Young on April 6 at Lazier Field in Evanston. Regarding those matchups, Coach Salgado said, “Niles North is our first conference game of the season, and we know that if this year’s team wants to win a CSL South championship, it is imperative to get off on the right foot.” The Coach added, “Whitney Young [is a] good program, we have to come out hungry every game and continue capitalizing on every opportunity and finishing possessions with goals.”