Nadia Van den Berg has played all over the field since she started playing soccer for Evanston.
The versatile senior proved Tuesday that she hasn’t forgotten how to put the ball in the back of the net even though she has moved into a role where she’s more of a facilitator for the offense at center midfield.
Van den Berg scored 2 goals — after netting just 1 prior to Tuesday — and led the Wildkit girls to an 11-0 slaughter of Chicago Von Steuben in the Class 3A regional tournament semifinal at Lazier Field.
Evanston, the No. 1 seed in the New Trier Sectional complex, blitzed the Panthers with 4 goals in the first 13 minutes, including 2 apiece by Van den Berg and leading scorer Jocelyn Leigh.
Two more goals by reserve Sofia Dailey helped the Kits build a 10-0 advantage by halftime and the second half was cut short to just 20 minutes per Illinois High School rules involving one-sided slaughters.
The Wildkits improved to 17-2-1 overall and will meet Lincoln Park in Friday’s championship game at 7 p.m. at ETHS. Lincoln Park eliminated Niles West 2-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Three ETHS players who hadn’t scored a goal all season — senior Shea Ackman, senior Brigid Zoltan and junior Molly Riley — finally broke loose against a Von Steuben defense that was closer to “no pressure” than low pressure.
Besides the 11-goal outburst, the Wildkits were whistled for offsides on scoring attempts at least a dozen times and Panther goalie Isabel Martinez was credited with 14 saves in the abbreviated contest.
That’s just the kind of start to the postseason that ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado was hoping for.
“It’s the playoffs, and anything can happen. We had a different start time for the first time this season, and coming out of school, you never know just how checked in they’ll be at the beginning of the game,” Salgado pointed out. “But we’re on a mission.
“We had a lot of steals today. That’s because we like to apply pressure, and this year we have the players who can do it.”
That list includes Van den Berg, whose role has changed from a defender as a freshman, to a forward last year, to a center midfielder who had to work her way into a talented lineup after missing the early portion of the season because she broke a bone in her foot playing club soccer.
The ETHS scoring list credited the senior with just 1 goal and 1 assist before Tuesday, but those totals don’t tell the complete story of the contributions she has made to one of the state’s best teams.
“Nadia missed a big chunk of the season at the start, and it’s a credit to her because she worked really hard to get back,” Salgado said. “Even when she was out, she made it a point to stay connected to this team. She’s the light of this team — 100 percent! She’s a senior who knows how to use her body well and plays great balls. I think she’s found a natural spot. She was a great attacking forward, but she’s a great attacking center mid, too.
“She took advantage of her opportunity when a couple of the others were out and made the most of it. Now she’s more fit and has the endurance to play in the middle, and that spot requires a lot more running than forward. We expect our center mids to get back on defense, too.”
“I’m playing more in the middle so my job is to head balls out wide to our speedy forwards,” said Van den Berg. “I’ve had different roles every year, but I still remember how to score. And I love getting assists even more than scoring goals. I think I like center mid the best now. Setting up the forwards is really the most rewarding thing for me.
“We were on their half (Von Steuben’s side) more than we are in a lot of games so I had more opportunities to push up and score. We all did what we were supposed to do today.”
Leigh notched Evanston’s first goal in the 2nd minute, then stole the ball from a Von Steuben defender to set up a shot and score by Van den Berg to make it 2-0. Another steal led to another goal for Leigh, and the rout was on when Van den Berg’s theft started a 30-yard scoring run as the ETHS senior dribbled in and beat goalie Martinez in the 13th minute.
Also scoring goals for the winners were Lily Shure and Brealyn Viamille. Riley’s tally game on a penalty kick in the 26th minute, when she booted the initial shot off the crossbard, but alertly recovered her own miss and ripped the ball back into the net.