The outcome of a high school soccer game isn’t always determined by which team has the most talent.

Sometimes, it comes down to just which team shows up with the most energy.

A determined Evanston squad scored three goals in the first six minutes of a rare Monday night game at Lazier Field and rolled to a 6-1 victory over Wheaton St. Francis in the second round of the fifth annual Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic tournament.

The ETHS varsity girls soccer team in 2023. Credit: Evanston Wildkits Girls Soccer Instagram

Because the Wildkits brought that early energy – and despite the fact they were back in the classroom at school following spring break – they put themselves in position to reach the Final Four of the tourney. A win or tie against Libertyville Wednesday night will assure ETHS of winning the Group B bracket after Naperville North beat Libertyville 3-2 in the other Group B matchup Monday.

Three group winners, plus a wild card, will advance to Thursday’s semifinals at New Trier. The third place and title games are set for Saturday.

Three different Wildkits – Jocelyn Leigh in the first minute, Mia Darer in the fourth minute, and Adriana Merriam in the sixth minute – found the back of the net in the early going and that allowed ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado to clear her entire bench as part of what might be her squad’s biggest physical challenge of the season, with as many as five games possible in a one-week span.

Leigh netted another goal and assisted on a goal from sophomore Maddie Varela in the second half. Shayna DaSilva also scored in the first half as the Wildkits improved to 6-0-1 on the season and 2-0 in tournament play.

Salgado was even able to provide significant minutes for three players – Lucy Fredrickson, Alice Schanou and Lily Hammock – who were promoted from the junior varsity team to provide more depth this week.

“I thought our energy was good tonight,” said the Evanston coach. “We talked about setting a tone for the evening and they did just that. We’re very aware of how having positive, good energy is telling about how the game is going to look.

“We pulled three girls up because the JV team didn’t have any games scheduled until the end of the week, just to give them experience with how we warm up and how we do things on the varsity level. We have to give them some experience and put them in different situations, so they’re prepared if we need them.”

In contrast to the home team, the Spartans were flat from the start on their way to falling to 2-3 on the season. St. Francis, which lost to Libertyville 4-0 in their tourney opener, only put three shots on goal and only avoided a shutout when Ella Schroeder beat Kits backup goalkeeper Shea Lucas in the 58th minute.   

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