The families of 14 Evanston varsity soccer players gather on Lazier Field on Senior Night. Credit: Richard Cahan

Evanston’s boys varsity soccer team hasn’t exactly lived up to its No. 2 sectional seed in the last week of the regular season.

That’s what happens when you can’t find the back of the net.

A 1-0 loss Thursday to Round Lake at Lazier Field, coupled with a 3-1 defeat against Oak Park-River Forest earlier in the week, denied the Evanston Township High School Wildkits any momentum entering the postseason and dropped them to 12-4-3 on the season overall.

Now the question is: can they get that momentum back in time for another deep postseason run? The ability to finish on offense is what can get that momentum back, starting at the Evanston Class 3A Regional tournament 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when the Kits host No. 15 sectional seed Maine West.

Winner of that game will play either No. 8 Lane Tech or No. 11 Loyola Academy for the regional championship at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22.

If you’re a Wildkit fan who believes the glass is half full, you can point to the fact that ETHS head coach Franz Calixte purposefully scheduled two teams with double figure victories on the season for a final tough tuneup for the postseason.

But if you see the glass as half empty, you’ll have plenty of open shots to review that didn’t find the back of the net Thursday on Senior Night.

Evanston’s only goal in the last two games has come via a penalty kick – by Diego Velasquez against OPRF – and the fact that the Wildkits have out-shot their opponents over that stretch wasn’t of much consolation to Calixte Thursday night.

“It’s not about how creative you are out there, it’s how many goals you actually score,” said Calixte. “I’m complaining about a hand ball call we didn’t get [in the first half] and I shouldn’t be talking about that, but I am because we just can’t score. We had a lot of open shots that we missed tonight. As talented as we are, we could lose in the regional or sectional because we just can’t score.”

Evanston is seeded No. 2 in the Glenbrook South Sectional grouping, behind only New Trier. But the Wildkits lost to OPRF, the No. 3 seed, despite getting off 17 shots to the Huskies’ six in that loss. The two teams could meet again in the sectional semifinals, and Oak Park is the team that eliminated the Wildkits in the postseason last year.

“It’s disappointing to lose this one, because our seniors deserve better than that,” said Calixte. “I just don’t know how many different ways we could find to miss the goal tonight. We had all kinds of opportunities against Oak Park too, but now it sounds like an excuse when I say we outplayed these two teams, blah, blah, blah. But we should have won both games.”

Senior midfielder Hugo Blackwell played one of his best games of the season, but twice missed an open net against Round Lake goalkeeper Gerardo Perez (14 saves). “And we had another wide-open shot where we kicked it right at the goalie,” Calixte said.

Evanston’s best chance to score came when senior Payton Wisley challenged keeper Perez for a 50-50 ball at the 20-yard line – and won it. But his shot deflected off a Round Lake fullback who threw his arm up in the air to make the play, and no hand ball violation was whistled, denying the Kits a penalty kick with 3 minutes left in the first half.

“That hand ball couldn’t have been any more clear, even if it was inadvertent. It was a chicken wing and his arm was way up here,” Calixte said. “That was an easy call, but [the official] didn’t make it. All I wanted was for him to be consistent.”

Round Lake (11-3-3) finally broke up the scoreless deadlock when Jorge Morales banged a shot off the left post and past ETHS goalie Alex Mahoney (six saves) in the 76th minute. Mahoney was shielded by a teammate and never saw the shot attempt.

Calixte wasn’t about to second-guess the idea of scheduling tough competition despite his team’s problems on offense.

“Finishing has been a problem for us the last half of the season – really, since the New Trier game [a loss that didn’t prevent the Wildkits from capturing the conference championship],” said Calixte. “But we’ve still been talented enough to find ways to win.

“We need games like this against tough teams. The regional shouldn’t be super duper hard for us and I felt like we needed to play some serious competition to get our mindset right. And both of those games should have been wins.”

Leave a comment

The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *