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Brealyn Viamille was just doing her job.
But the Evanston freshman’s team-high 8th goal of the season wasn’t just another goal for one of the team’s leading scorers.
Viamille netted the first goal of a 2-0 triumph over Von Steuben Tuesday night in the first round of the Class 3A Evanston Regional tournament at Lazier Field, propelling the Wildkits into Friday’s championship game at 6 p.m.
Evanston, now 13-5-2, will meet either Lane Tech or Niles North in the title match on Friday.
Playing in the biggest game of her soccer career to date, Viamille didn’t really think scoring a postseason goal was anything special. But the ability to score first in a one-and-done scenario like the one present for Illinois High School Association playoff play eased any pressure the Kits, seeded No. 3 in the sectional complex, might have felt.
And it prevented frustration from setting in after the hosts dominated the time of possession against the 14th-seeded Panthers, but couldn’t find the back of the net until the 28th minute, when Viamille knocked in a rebound.
Callista O’Connor scored an insurance goal with 5 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first half and is now tied with Viamille for the team lead with 8 apiece.
Viamille is one of a half dozen freshmen to make an impact for the Wildkits this spring and scoring a goal in her first postseason test means she’s already accomplished something few frosh have achieved in the history of the program.
ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado acknowledged Tuesday that Viamille’s ability goes beyond her speed, which ranks at the top of the team list in that category.
“Brealyn is a speed player, and she often finds herself 1 versus 1 against a goalie just for that reason,” the coach pointed out. “She does create a lot of chances for herself that way. But she’s also crafty, has really good foot skills — and she knows the game.
“She’s able to figure out where she needs to go to score and she really uses her body well. She’s earned a starting spot on a great team, and I think that says a lot about her. We all have a lot of confidence in her. Now she’s making the connections with players she hasn’t played with before, and that’s helped build her confidence.”
Viamille suffered a crisis of confidence — or rather a lack of it — midway through the season and credits a chat with assistant coach Nick Gauna for helping her get past that hurdle.
“My confidence was really down until I talked to Coach Gauna, because I wasn’t scoring much,” Viamille recalled. “The coaches here are so great to talk to. He said it wasn’t just me, that we all had to work together. I was about to break down because of it, but he really made me feel better.
“As a team, we’re together all the time and it’s great. I recommend that everybody play high school soccer because it’s such a great experience. I’ve just gotten to know most of the seniors and I’m already sad that they’re going to be leaving soon.
“My job is to score goals and I feel like I’m still on that path, but I’m not there yet. The toughest adjustment for me (on earning a varsity spot) is knowing I should have had way more goals earlier in the year. I felt like I wasn’t getting the ball a lot — that was partly my fault — and we just weren’t connecting as a team. Now everyone’s getting more chances to score, not just me.”
Five corner kicks and two other restarts didn’t produce any goals in the first half for the Wildkits, until Kat Sehgal lobbed a shot toward the goal that Von Steuben keeper Isabel Martinez lost track of. The ball glanced off the crossbar, bounced straight down off one of Martinez’s hands, and Viamille was in the right place at the right time to nudge the ball across the line at the 12:05 mark.
The freshman flashed a high soccer IQ when she described the play in the aftermath.
“I could see that either Kat or I were going to score on that play,” she pointed out. “I could tell from her positioning she wasn’t going to catch Kat’s shot — she was behind the line in the net — and I knew she was going to bobble it. On every shot, every kick you have to follow it and then something good will happen.
“Was it a sense of relief for us to score? I didn’t think so, not really. But everybody always feels better when you get that first score.”
O’Connor’s left-footed rocket trickled through Martinez 6 minutes later and that was the beginning of the end for the Panthers, who didn’t put a single shot on goal against either of Evanston’s keepers, Caitlin Fitzpatrick and Sylvi Imrem.