Jenner Johnson’s first priority after her first season as the head girls field hockey coach at Evanston is to try to create a feeder program for potential players before they enter high school.
But also right near the top of Johnson’s bucket list is producing better results on corner restarts.
The Wildkits couldn’t capitalize on several restarts Wednesday night in Northfield and suffered a season-ending 3-1 loss to Glenbrook South in the first round of the sectional tournament hosted by New Trier.
Evanston’s program is still in its infancy and the fact that the Wildkits finished with a winning record for the first time — at 7-6 — will provide a foundation going forward. Yet the Kits had a chance to advance to Saturday’s championship game against top-seeded New Trier if they had just found the back of the net more than once.
Evanston fell into a 3-0 hole at halftime, but closed the gap on a goal by junior Lucy Gallun with 22 minutes, 17 seconds left in regulation .
Just one minute later, with the heat turned up by the offense, the No. 8 seeded Kits had not one — not two — but THREE consecutive corner opportunities, yet couldn’t even muster a shot on goal.
Johnson will be left wondering just what the outcome might have been if the gap had been narrowed to 3-2 with that much time left in the contest.
“I thought it would’ve been a different game if we had finished that first half with a goal,” Johnson said. “And we had more shots on goal and more corners than Glenbrook South did. I thought we dominated the second half, we just didn’t capitalize on our chances.
“We just need to work on finishing better. We haven’t worked a lot on corners this year because we had other areas to focus on. We had to work on understanding the game, understanding spacing, before we worked on specific details like that. As we get stronger as a team, and get more used to playing off of each other, that’s something we’ll definitely focus on next year.”
By one count, the Wildkits totaled 10 corner attempts under the rules that allow the offensive players to out-number the defense. But GBS goalie Maddie Dillon was only required to make 5 saves, and 3 of those stops came on a breakaway chance by Gallun off Evanston’s opening possession.
At the other end, ETHS goalie Chloe Chow denied South’s Kyla Kachmarik twice on breakaway opportunities but did surrender a pair of goals to Eva Van Der Goes and one by Belle Tiesi to account for that 3-0 deficit at the intermission.
GBS, which also defeated the Kits by the same score during the regular season, will play New Trier on Saturday in the second round of the sectional. The Trevians eliminated Naperville North 9-0 in the first game Wednesday.
The Wildkits were down two starters — senior Macey Woodward and sophomore Grace Johnson — due to injuries for Wednesday’s postseason test.
Chow, Woodward and fellow seniors Kayla Nieman, Phoebe Porter, Morgan Riley and Natalie Ward helped lay the foundation of the program, including a sectional tournament win last year as juniors. Ward and Porter served as co-captains for the squad, which scored wins over several more established programs this fall.
“This is a good group of seniors and we got very solid leadership from our captains, plus great attitudes even from the girls who didn’t get much playing time,” Coach Johnson pointed out. “We’re a young team (9 sophomores, 6 juniors) and we definitely have grown as a program this year. We’ll become stronger as we get older and learn how to play together.
“We had a good season and I have to imagine the girls are happy with how they finished. Every single one of them got better.”