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Since Stacy Salgado took over as head coach for the Evanston girls soccer program, the Wildkits have earned wins and ties during the regular season in head-to-head matchups against arch-rival New Trier.
But the Kits still haven’t figured out a way to beat the Trevians once postseason play begins. And for that matter, almost no other school has, either.
New Trier kept its dynasty intact Friday night in Northfield, capturing its seventh straight Illinois High School Association sectional tournament championship by blanking ETHS 2-0. New Trier, now 20-1-4, will face Libertyville, a 1-0 winner over Stevenson, in the Class 3A Glenbrook North Supersectional next Tuesday.
Evanston bowed out with a final mark of 16-3-3 in a season where only a handful of Wildkit players had any varsity experience at all coming into the year. But the fact that she was able to bring out the best in her squad, along with assistant coaches Rami Dajani and Ryan Berkley, under unusual circumstances following a pandemic-induced year-long layoff, wasn’t much consolation for Coach Salgado.
Only two teams, New Trier and Glenbrook North, scored wins over the Kits this spring. And while the Trevians’ record for success (six straight trips to the Final Four) and mystique has intimidated area schools, including some past teams at ETHS, Coach Salgado insisted that the psychological hurdle isn’t there anymore for the Orange and Blue.
“This group really had the belief we could beat them,” said a somber coach after addressing her squad, including five seniors, for the last time. “We didn’t have to deal with that [New Trier’s reputation] at all with them. They’re a fearless group and it doesn’t get to them just because they see another team’s uniform.
“Overall, we had a great season and this is one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. And we had five amazing seniors [Caitlin Fitzpatrick, Ruby Rogers, Josie Hansen, Eloise Gilbert Bartell, and Alyssa Kimmel] who gave us great leadership, each in their own way. Obviously, I’m disappointed with the result tonight. But I’m really excited to see what they’re capable of going forward now, with a year of experience.”
New Trier counted a goal in the 11th minute by Morgan Fagan off a cross from Kate Dobsch, and tallied an insurance goal in the 82nd minute when Dobsch re-directed a free kick past goalie Fitzpatrick.
The Wildkits had difficulty mounting much of an offensive attack, especially after one of the squad’s leading scorers, junior Breayln Viamille, was injured midway through the first half and only returned to play briefly.
In her absence, sophomore Adriana Merriam moved up top from her starting midfield spot and added the dangerous touches and playmaking skills the Wildkits needed to keep up a stiff challenge against the hosts.
“Breayln was out in the second half after she got injured, so that wasn’t ideal,” said Coach Salgado. “But Adriana is a very versatile player. And when we put her up top, she was able to generate a lot of chances for us. We did have some chances – we just didn’t take advantage of them.”
New Trier keeper Wynn Hague was only forced to make five saves total, all of them coming in the second half on plays initiated by Merriam. The ETHS sophomore tried to beat Hague twice in the first 5 minutes of the second half, both times from inside the 20-yard line, but Hague was equal to the task.
Hague handled another line drive attempt from Merriam in the 57th minute. And Evanston had even better chances to score after that, with Merriam in the role of passer instead of shooter.
First she slid a long pass on the ground through the Trevian defense to classmate Shayna DaSilva, but Hague added another save. Less than a minute later, Merriam hit teammate Shayln Pryor in stride streaking down the left side of the field, but Pryor pushed the shot left of the goal.