Her coach probably wouldn’t have recommended the fundamentals Evanston goalkeeper Ariel Kite showed off Tuesday at the Class 3A New Trier Sectional soccer tournament.
But because Kite flew high – the top-seeded Evanston girls advanced past rival New Trier with a 2-1 victory, punching a ticket to Friday’s sectional title game versus Loyola Academy.
Kite’s leaping one-handed save, plus two more in the last 15 minutes, denied the Trevians and sent the longtime state power to the sidelines. It marked the first time since 1991 that Evanston has scored a postseason victory over their rivals to the north. New Trier had eliminated the Kits in 2016, 2018 and 2021 most recently, and owned 10 consecutive wins in the win-or-go-home state tournament series head-to-head matchups between the two after losing 2-1 in penalty kicks back in 1991 in the sectional semis.
The Wildkits, now 19-2-1 on the season, left little doubt as to their superiority this year after also beating the Trevs 3-1 during the regular season.
Still, it took a special performance by Kite, plus goals by Jocelyn Leigh and Nahla Dominguez, to oust the host team. New Trier finished 12-8-5 overall.
Kite knocked away a bid by New Trier star Lida Dodge to tie the game on a free kick with 16 minutes left in the contest, jumping up and batting the shot out of danger. She then added stops against Ava Shah (69th minute) and Dodge again (71st minute) to preserve Evanston’s biggest win of the year.
The Wildkits reached the sectional semifinals without even having to play for a regional championship, after Lincoln Park opted to let its players prioritize the school prom over a postseason game last week and withdrew from the state tournament. Evanston will meet Loyola, a 2-1 winner over Maine South in the other sectional semi, on Friday at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to the New Trier Supersectional.
“It feels great to beat them. This is one of the most exciting games we’ve had all year!” exclaimed Kite, a junior who has played almost every minute in the net for the Kits this season. “We went in pretty confident after beating them in the regular season, but we weren’t overly cocky about it or anything. It’s great to knock them out and keep moving on.
“That one-handed save has become a go-to move for me, but I don’t think my goalie coach would like the fact that it was a bottom hand save. But that’s how I always do it. I was ready for it when Dodge took the shot, and when I heard Brealyn [teammate Brealyn Viamille] say, ‘It’s all you!’, in that moment I just knew I couldn’t let this one go in.
“I have a great back line [on defense] that doesn’t let a lot of shots get through to me, that’s true. But I’m really confident now, and it’s good for me to have a moment like this, to be able to show that I can step up and make a big save when we need it most.”
“Ariel’s made some big saves to keep us in games all season, and she made some big stops in this game,” said ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence back there.
“Beating New Trier in the playoffs is a different breed than beating them during the season. We were emotional, they were emotional, and winning a sectional semifinal game is big against anybody. And now it puts us in position to win a sectional.”
Evanston’s ability to match New Trier’s physical style of play in the second half was almost as crucial to the win as Kite’s play at keeper and the game-winning goal tallied by Dominguez on a penalty kick in the 51st minute.
Viamille earned a free shot for her teammate when she was tripped by Trevian defender Charlotte Dellin. That wasn’t the first time a Wildkit player was knocked to the turf, but this time the result was a whistle in favor of the visitors.
“Beating them, for some reason, is not as sweet as I thought it would be,” said Viamille. “It’s really just another game we thought we’d win. We just came out and did the job, and now we get to practice tomorrow and we get to play another game.
“We know their game is physical and we talked about taking our game to the next level, because Evanston has the heart. We upped our game and came out with the win. And yeah, that was a foul – I took a chance, because you either push forward or you fall, because I knew I wouldn’t get to the ball.
“So I fell.”
Salgado had received her first yellow card of the season late in the first half after Leigh was shouldered to the ground in the box and no foul was called. Earlier, New Trier scored its only goal when Josie Noble ran over Dominguez at the 20-yard line and then drilled a shot into the low left corner past Kite.
“That’s the way New Trier plays. They run through the ball [whether there’s contact or not] every time,” Salgado said. “We did play more physical in the second half. We took some fouls, but we managed to play through them. At halftime we did talk about running through the ball, versus just sticking your leg out.
“Jocelyn’s play probably should have been a penalty kick. She’s a strong girl and she doesn’t get knocked down like that very often.”
Viamille threaded a solid pass to Leigh in the box and the sophomore forward nudged the ball into the back of the net in the 15th minute, staking the Wildkits to an early 1-0 lead. New Trier pulled even just 2 minutes later on the tally by Noble.