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A season that was in doubt right until the opening kick couldn’t have had a happier ending.
Evanston’s boys soccer team blanked rival New Trier 1-0 Saturday afternoon in Northfield and captured the Central Suburban League round-robin postseason tournament championship.
A goal by Charlie Fies – a rebound blast in the 15th minute – and clutch goalie play by Ben Weyman enabled the Wildkits to reclaim the fire hydrant trophy they lost three weeks ago to the Trevians.
With no Illinois High School Association State tournament series at stake after the season was pushed back from the fall to this spring, the Kits played fast and loose and regained the upper hand in the all-time rivalry. ETHS has now won 44 of the head-to-head rivalry matchups to New Trier’s 43, and the two schools have tied 22 times.
It’s also a historic win since it marks the only time since the IHSA began conducting a State series that Evanston has triumphed on the final day of the season. Coach Franz Calixte’s squad survived an early offensive barrage by New Trier to post a final season record of 9-3-2.
Three of those wins came against the CSL South division’s top 3 challengers – Maine South, Glenbrook South, and New Trier – under the format that paralleled the Evanston Invitational tournament format from previous seasons.
Teams conducted penalty kick competitions after each game, although the Wildkits and Trevs opted not to Saturday with the possession of the fire hydrant already decided for another year.
Coach Calixte had no doubt on Saturday that the current squad was playing its best soccer of the season when the final whistle blew.
“I’m just so happy for the seniors,” said the ETHS coach. “Every year we joke about it right before the state playoffs, that only two teams [State champion and third place finisher] can finish the season with a win. That was our goal today, and that’s just what we did.
“We’ve never done that before and it was a great sendoff for our seniors. We went out on top, and over the last three games these guys have really peaked. The State playoffs last seven games, and we’ll never know what would have happened this year, but I’m very confident that we were hitting our peak as a team. And at the end of the day, they really believed they’d beat New Trier.”
ETHS had to weather an early storm, but a couple of point blank saves by keeper Weyman kept the game scoreless and the Wildkits countered when Fies rebounded an initial shot by teammate Sebastian Leon.
“They really peppered us with shots and they were really dangerous the first three minutes,” Coach Calixte noted. “But after those saves by Ben – and they were great saves – we were able to slow the pace down and play to our counters.”