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Carly Menocal’s job is to prevent goals, not to score them.
So it’s safe to say that the goal she scored Friday night was the biggest in the career so far for the Evanston junior defender.
Menocal’s header, off a corner kick from teammate Nahla Dominguez, restored some badly needed momentum for the Wildkits after they coughed up a 2-goal lead and led to another regional tournament championship at Lazier Field.
Evanston’s 4-2 victory over Maine South — their third over the Hawks this season — set up a Class 3A sectional semifinal date with Loyola Academy, a 1-0 winner over Glenbrook South in that regional final. Evanston improved to 15-2-3 on the season and will host the Ramblers on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Menocal’s header in the 58th minute snapped a 2-2 tie and Breayln Viamille added an insurance goal, off a pass from Shayna DaSilva, 6 minutes later. It marked just the third goal of the season for Menocal.
Whether it’s the class system, or just the degree of difficulty in the sport trying to beat a familiar opponent for a second or third time, regional championship games aren’t the one-sided routs they used to be sometimes when your mother played high school soccer.
No one knows that better than ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado, who will never take capturing a regional title for granted.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had an easy regional championship game since I’ve been coaching,” Salgado said. “Winning a regional is tough, because it brings out a new fight in a team. This was a good test for us tonight. We’re taking it (postseason play) one step at a time. That’s the goal.
“I was never really worried (after Maine South tied the contest at 2-2 early in the 2nd half). We’ve scored a lot of goals this year. We try to always play an aggressive style and get forward (on offense), and I knew if we had opportunities, we just had to finish them. Maine South is very strong and very fast up top, and they were able to capitalize on some unforced errors. They were able to pick off some passes and that’s what led to their 2 goals.
“Carly Menocal’s been a rock star for us all year long. She’s very knowledgeable and very fast, and she has a great soccer IQ. She’s always very composed in the back and she’s always where she needs to be.”
Menocal was certainly in the right place at the right time Friday night.
“That corner (from Dominguez) was a really good ball, and all it needed was a slight deflection,” said the modest junior. “Maine South came out really aggressive and they got the momentum after they scored that first goal, and it took us a second to regain our footing. It just feels really great to win a regional, and I’m excited to keep going in the state tournament.”
Goals by Nadia Van Den Berg (12th minute) and DaSilva (18th minute) lulled the hosts into a brief false sense of security in the first half. You couldn’t really blame the Wildkits, because the Hawks hadn’t scored in two regular season meetings, a 0-0 tie and a 6-0 ETHS romp.
But the No. 7 sectional seed didn’t go down without a fight. Evanston’s defense couldn’t clear a loose ball and Molly Pistorius pounced on it and nudged a shot past ETHS keeper Caitlin Fitzpatrick to make it 2-1 at the halftime break.
Pistorius also scored on a 1-on-1 breakaway early in the second half to pull the Hawks even at 2-2.