Evanston’s girls water polo team inches closer to New Trier every time the two rivals meet this spring.

Maybe the fifth time will be the charm for the Wildkits if they meet again next week.

Bridget McKenna’s goal in the third overtime period preserved that upper hand for the Trevians again on Friday night at the Niles North pool as New Trier outscored ETHS 7-6 in the championship game of the Central Suburban League tournament.

Both teams had golden opportunities to score a “golden” goal – in a sudden victory format where the first team to score wins after regulation play – before McKenna’s high lob eluded Evanston goalie Alliey Cunningham with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining in the third OT.

Evanston fell to a frustrating 18-7 on the season, with New Trier now responsible for four of those defeats. The two teams are seeded one-two in the Glenbrook South Sectional tournament and could collide again in the title game there next Saturday.

Cunningham was actually one of the standouts for the losers, recording a total of 16 saves, with five of them coming in the overtime sessions. Natalie Long and Claire Kennedy sparked the team’s best defensive performance of the season, but Evanston mustered only one goal – by Ava Santos-Volpe – in the entire second half and overtimes after leading 5-2 at halftime.

ETHS head coach Andy Miner couldn’t take much consolation from the fact that the final scores (9-5, 9-7, 8-7 and 7-6) in the head-to-head matchups with the Trevians do reflect some progress by the Wildkits this spring.

“This is a tough one to take, but at least it’s not a season-ender,” Coach Miner said. “We have seven days now to regroup and come back from this. We have to stay hungry. It would have been nice to win this one, but ultimately, all it gets you is four numbers on the wall [listing conference championships]. That’s not what we’re striving for. That’s not what our ultimate goal is.

“We were at least 0-for-8 in six-on-five situations [player advantage] tonight, and that’s the story of this game right there. We had a bunch of opportunities and we couldn’t take advantage of them. We couldn’t convert any shots. I felt like we got some good looks. We hit the post way too many times, but we’ll figure it out.”

In-your-face, swarming defense by the Kits in the first half kept the Trevians from building any momentum, and most of the shots Cunningham faced were soft attempts just to beat the shot clock.

Evanston scored the first three goals of the contest – by Hilda Arellano, Samantha Rhodes and Erin Long – and another Rhodes goal plus a tally by Santos-Volpe offset scores by New Trier’s McKenna and Emily McKenzie.

New Trier (16-4 and ranked fifth in the state) finally gained the lead with 5:37 left in the fourth quarter, as McKenna converted a pass from Charlie Escasa. Two minutes later, Santos-Volpe produced the equalizer and neither team scored for the next tension-filled 11 minutes.

“The first time we played New Trier, we really didn’t do much right,” noted Coach Miner. “We were still trying to find our identity on offense and on defense. Thanks to [assistant coach] Maggie Hatcher, we’ve been able to figure it out.”

“I liked the way we took control at the start, because any time you play a team like this, you know it will be a battle to the last second,” said the Assistant Coach.

“We played at such a high level on defense in the first half, but then we let them crawl back into it,” said Coach Miner. “That shouldn’t have happened. When you just do your job on defense, and don’t fall asleep like we did for awhile there, you don’t need an extraordinary effort.”