Evanston’s soccer wakeup call came earlier than usual Tuesday.

But the Wildkits finally snapped out of their slumber in time to easily advance to the Class 3A regional championship game set for Friday at Leyden High School.

Evanston eliminated Von Steuben 4-0 in a regional semifinal game that started at 4 p.m., hours earlier than the Kits are used to playing – or even practicing. If nothing else, it served as a wakeup call for the title game Friday – also set for a 4 p.m. start.

Regional and sectional hosts are allowed to set their own time schedules and Evanston and Von Steuben played the first game of a doubleheader on Tuesday. In the second contest, No. 8 seed Lane Tech ousted Leyden 2-1 to earn the right to challenge top-seeded Evanston on Friday.

The early start time, the fact that none of the ETHS players has ever participated in a postseason game and the additional pressure that belongs to the school seeded No. 1 in a sectional all played a role, according to head coach Franz Calixte.

“Maybe we had a few butterflies,” Calixte said, after his squad scored 3 goals in the final 13 minutes to secure the victory. Two of those goals were by Sebastian Leon in a stretch of three-and-a-half minutes on the clock.

“We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game today. Maybe that was our ‘C’ game. I’m just glad we got this one out of the way. Afternoon games are tough when you’re not used to them. This was a good one to get us acclimated, and hopefully we’ll be used to it by Friday.

“Maybe we had butterflies, or maybe there was a lack of urgency because they’ve been able to get through teams at this level [bottom seeds] without having to go 400 miles-per-hour out there to win,” Calixte said. “But that’s a habit we need to shed. That’s not a good habit.”

Evanston’s effort really couldn’t be questioned. After all, the Wildkits did create a staggering number of corner kick opportunities – 16 by one count.

The bad news? They didn’t score on a single one of those dead-ball chances.

“We’re not getting consistent services, we’re not getting consistent runs [to the goal], and we’re not getting urgency from them on those corners. I think we’ve scored on maybe one corner play all year,” Calixte said. “It’s something we’ve been working on all year. But I don’t know if it’s something they just take for granted, if they think it will be easy because otherwise the play might have been a goal, but that’s a question we’ve been trying to answer all year.

“Dead balls are so important in the postseason. We’ve got to do better.”

Evanston broke up a scoreless deadlock with the No. 17 Panthers when co-captain Will Travis banged a shot off the back of his heel that slipped past Von Steuben goalie Jon Saenz at point-blank range. Saenz had stopped Travis’ initial try before Evanston seized the lead in the 21st minute. The winners didn’t score again until Leon worked a give-and-go play with midfielder Nate Heckler, sliding a shot into the back of the net in the 57th minute. He added an unassisted goal just minutes later and the Kits concluded their scoring when Brian Maldonado, a sophomore just promoted to the varsity, notched his first goal of the year with a hard shot that glanced off the keeper’s hands.  

 

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  1. No matter how far this team goes, hat’s off to Franz, the coaching staff and these new/veteran players (including the outstanding sophomores Diego and Brian) who have formed a formidable team. Great chemistry, skill and personalities, they’ve been an absolute joy to watch.