Just the fact that Evanston’s girls soccer team qualified for the Class 3A sectional tournament championship game at New Trier High School still hadn’t sunk in for co-captain Nadia Van den Berg Friday, May 27, as she and classmate Carly Menocal walked to meet the game officials prior to the kickoff.
“It kinda feels like I’m living a dream,” Van den Berg confided to her teammate.
The Wildkits kept that dream – the dream of a second Illinois High School Association state championship for the program – alive by defeating Loyola Academy 5-1 at the New Trier Sectional in Northfield.
Senior Brealyn Viamille scored three goals and led the Wildkits to just the third sectional championship in ETHS girls soccer history. The last time it happened? In 2002, when Evanston went all the way and claimed the state championship trophy.
Evanston, now 20-2-1 on the season, will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, in Libertyville at the New Trier Supersectional for the right to advance to the Final Four next weekend in Naperville. Libertyville scored a 1-0 upset of top-seeded Glenbrook North Friday, May 27, at the Warren Sectional.
Already leading 2-0, coach Stacy Salgado’s squad exploded for two goals in 63 seconds late in the first half and cruised to their second win over the Ramblers this season. But the victory came at a cost, when senior defender Sarah Sollinger absorbed a cheap shot from a Rambler player, who tackled her late after a ball had clearly bounced out of bounds, and was lost for the season with an apparent broken collarbone.
Sollinger’s injury tempered the post-game celebration slightly after a senior-laden team watched their teammate leave via ambulance. But it couldn’t overshadow the significance of a sectional championship plaque and there are plenty of selfies available now on social media to verify that achievement.
Still, the Kits have designs on an even bigger goal, even though Salgado has deflected talk of a possible state title until now.
“This was a big game for us, a hurdle we needed to clear,” Salgado said. “We’ve only been to the sectional finals one other time since I’ve been coaching, and they know the girls from Loyola very well, so that added to the level of motivation. Overall, we played a very solid game. They were very engaged and they knew what they needed to do to win.
“The girls came in confident today. It’s very hard to win a sectional. We had to beat two teams twice this season [New Trier and Loyola], and that’s hard to do. When you get to this point it can play mind games with you.
“I do think this team is very capable of winning the state championship. I’m looking forward to next week.”
Viamille scored goals in minutes 24 and 38 in the first half, then completed her hat trick when she punched in a loose ball in the box 10 minutes into the second half. Also scoring for the Wildkits were Nahla Dominguez and Ellie Oif.
“I feel good, and I feel like this is well-deserved,” said Viamille, who like the other seniors wasn’t even born the last time the Kits advanced this far in the state series. “We came in knowing we were going to win this game, because we’ve grown so much as a team since the last time we beat them.
“We never underestimated Loyola. But we knew they did a lot of short goal kicks, so we wanted to put a lot of pressure on them. It’s easier to pressure teams that way and we did a good job.
“We do talk (among the players) about winning State, but we humble ourselves and say we’re going to take it one game at a time. We did start counting down (the number of wins necessary) when we saw the pairings. Now, we have one week to go.”
That offensive pressure, plus some shoddy play in goal, helped the Wildkits build a 4-0 halftime advantage. The Ramblers (18-5-1) only mustered a solitary shot on goal against ETHS goalie Ariel Kite in the first 40 minutes, and Kite added four more saves in the second half. Loyola’s only goal came via penalty kick by Grace Ehlert with three minutes, 24 seconds left in the game.
Viamille buried a left-footed attempt for the first goal of the game, and the Kits pushed the lead to 2-0 when a corner kick by Dominquez sliced right through the hands of Loyola goalie Ellie Bradley.
Bradley got burned again on another corner kick just before halftime. The ball bounced off a couple of heads before Oif, who usually anchors the ETHS defense, found the back of the net with a header for her first goal of the season – and just the second of her varsity career.
Viamille knocked in a rebound of Jocelyn Leigh’s hard drive just 63 seconds later and the rout was on.
Oif will always remember her first goal of the season, not to mention the loss of her teammate on the back line, Sollinger.
“That was kinda cheap, because that ball was out of bounds, and it’s a shame something like that had to happen to Sarah,” Oif said. “It will be a lot harder to win state without Sarah, but we have other girls who I know will step up, and now we’ll win it for sure for Sarah.
“It was crazy to score that goal. On that play my job is usually to push Carly’s defender out of the way because she’s the target [of the corner kick]. She’s usually the targeted player, but somehow the ball just came to me, and I put it in.”