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Jocelyn Leigh’s ability to score goals in bunches has pushed her to the top of the scoring list for Evanston’s soccer team this spring.

On Tuesday, May 3, it pushed the Wildkits to even greater heights as a team.

Leigh struck for a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the first half – on her way to another hat trick – and helped deliver Evanston’s first Central Suburban League South division championship since 2016 with a 5-0 victory over previously unbeaten Glenbrook North.

The Wildkits, now 14-2-1 overall, face nemesis New Trier in Northfield Thursday in the division finale. The Trevians are also unbeaten in league play, but have tied twice and can’t catch ETHS in the standings now.

Tuesday’s statement win came in a showdown between two teams from the same league that have earned No. 1 sectional seeds for the Class 3A state tournament. The Illinois High School Association split up the postseason assignments in a different fashion this year, so GBN – No. 1 in the Warren Sectional grouping – could meet Evanston, the top seed at the New Trier Sectional in a rematch at the New Trier Supersectional if both teams survive.

“We’d like to play GBN again in the super. We’d like to play anyone in the super!” grinned Evanston head coach Stacy Salgado after her team’s biggest win of the season. “Our girls all knew this one meant a lot tonight. It was a very big win.

“Winning the conference shows the hard work they put in. It’s a baby step [to the state tournament series] and they deserve it. I think what separates this team from some of the others is their overall competitiveness. We have some of our top defenders going against our top attackers every day in practice, and they go at each other very hard. All 22 of them are like that. They have that inner drive and they don’t need any external push.”

Leigh, a sophomore forward who has blended seamlessly with a senior-laden squad, broke open a scoreless tie with a pair of goals in the last 1 minute, 52 seconds of the first half on a chilly and wet night at Lazier Field. Those two goals featured a combination of the sophomore’s power, stealth, speed and guile and broke the spirit of a GBN team that entered the showdown with a sparkling 14-0-1 record.

She tallied another goal in the 52nd minute when she eluded a defender at the 20-yard line and slipped a “changeup” shot past GBN goalie Taylor Brocato. Brealyn Viamille and Adriana Merriam accounted for the other ETHS goals, with Merriam’s coming via penalty kick.

“It feels amazing!” Leigh exclaimed. “We really felt like a team tonight. The energy was great. I had a couple of plays [earlier in the half] when I was off just a step, and I had to stay patient and wait for my opportunities. The team did a great job of getting the ball forward tonight.

“In a game like this, where you’re fighting the whole time, it’s disappointing when a team scores in the last second on you and it can be hard to move on from that. We came into the second half with a lot more momentum because we had those two goals. But GBN is a very strong team and they put up a good fight against us.”

“Those two goals Jocelyn scored [the last with just 14 seconds left on the clock] were huge for us,” Salgado said. “We came out with a lot more confidence in the second half. Jocelyn’s got three or four hat tricks [three-goal games] this year and when she’s on, she’s on. She’s very fast and she uses her size and her speed well. She’s an incredible player.”

Leigh’s offensive outburst overshadowed another solid performance by the ETHS defense. The Wildkits limited GBN’s highly regarded striker, Margy Forta, to just two shot attempts on the night, and both attempts were broken up by senior defender Ellie Oif. Forta is a Boston University recruit.

Oif and Carly Menocal combined on the back line to limit the number of shots that got through to Ariel Kite. The junior keeper was only required to make four saves overall against the Spartans.

“Whenever [Porta] got a step on one of them, the other was there to make sure she was covered,” pointed out Salgado. “I thought Carly and Ellie played very well off of each other on the back line tonight. They were very aware of where [Porta] was and our defense really shut her down.”

Evanston was actually coming off a loss, only the second of the season, after winning two of three games at a tournament in Burlington, Iowa. The Wildkits dropped a 2-0 decision to Kansas City (Mo.) St. Teresa after earlier notching wins against Spencer, Ia. (1-0) and Middleton, Wis. (2-1).

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