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New Trier’s soccer machine entered the rare matinee performance Saturday at Lazier Field holding the No. 2 ranking in the Chicago area, according to the website Chicagolandsoccer.org.
But it was host Wildkits that showed they’re ready for prime time with a convincing 2-0 victory in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Goals by Sebastian Leon (24th minute) and Pedro Rojas (46th minute) allowed the Wildkits to score their first regular season victory over the Trevians since the 2015 season.
Evanston, now 7-0-2, retained ownership of the fire hydrant trophy that goes to the winner of the rivalry matchup and also staked its claim for a possible Central Suburban League South division championship and perhaps a Class 3A No. 1 sectional tournament seed too. The Wildkits boosted their overall lead in the all-time series with 45 wins to New Trier’s 43. There have been 22 ties.
All of that could be in ETHS’ future, but head coach Franz Calixte didn’t have to be told to pump the brakes on a victory – big as it is – that happens in the third week of September.
“We’ve been saying all along that these guys are warriors, and they showed it again today,” Calixte said. “We’re not the biggest team, we’re not the fastest team, we’re not the strongest team, but when it comes to their will to win, they’re right there.
“It was a good, strong showing for us today. We played very well, we had patience, and we put in a couple of goals when we had the opportunities. But neither of us [New Trier slipped to 7-1-1 on the season] are peaking yet. It’s a game for us to put in our back pockets and forget about it, because if we see them again in the postseason, it will be a different game. We just need to keep looking forward now.
“Our guys take it very seriously when they’re playing at home. They’re still upset we didn’t win against Glenbrook South [1-1 tie].”
Co-captain Will Travis agreed with his head coach regarding the importance of a September win.
“New Trier’s been ranked at the top a lot, but the fact that we beat them is really just a stepping stone, to push us into the rest of the season,” said Travis, who picked up an assist with a classic service pass to Rojas early in the second half. “We weren’t nervous about playing them. This whole season we’ve been improving as a team, and we knew what we needed to do to get this done against them.
“Our possession was really good today and we were able to thread the ball upward with our passes and get a lot of good shots. I think everyone was on top of their game today. All of the seniors have been playing their entire lives for a chance at State, and nobody wants it more than we do. We all work really well together and we just need to keep finding our stride as a team.”
Evanston owned the defensive third of the field, thanks to the collective defensive efforts of George O’Carroll, Braden Weiss, Connor Bailey and goalie Chance Pape, who finished with six saves but was hardly tested. On offense, the Kits took advantage of the wide open spaces surrendered by New Trier and had opportunities to at least double their two-goal output.
Leon, ETHS’ leading scorer this season, banged in a rebound shot past New Trier keeper Aidan Crawford with 16 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the first half after Crawford stopped the initial try by Owen Kearns.
The hosts broke through again to start the second half when Travis served up a perfect ball from the left side of the goal, and the diminuitive Rojas dashed in to finish off the scoring chance with a header.
“Pedro’s the smallest guy on the field and he beat four of their guys to that ball,” exclaimed an admiring Calixte. “He’s been a surprising player for us at forward. I won’t say he’s mistake-free out there, but he’s doing everything we need a forward to do for us.”