Evanston Township High School had never won back-to-back conference championships until Stacy Salgado entered the girls soccer program as a player.

Twenty years later, the Wildkits are back in repeat mode – again.

Evanston clinched its second Central Suburban League South division title in a row Tuesday night in Skokie, blanking Niles West 5-0 to cap a perfect run in conference play for the second straight season.

Players on the ETHS girls varsity soccer team celebrate at a home game. On Tuesday the team defeated Niles West, capturing the Central Suburban League South division title. Credit: eths_girls_soccer Instagram

Jocelyn Leigh and Shayna DaSilva scored two goals apiece and Adriana Merriam added a goal as Evanston improved to 14-2-1 on the season. The Kits permitted only one goal against them in five league games this year.

Coach Salgado, who started for the 2002 state championship squad, was part of the best stretch in school history against conference competition. The Wildkits scored first-place finishes in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 but had ruled only twice since then – in 2016 and again last spring.

‘Something special’

“It’s a great accomplishment, against great competition,” Salgado said. “To be able to pull through in five tough games like this is something special. We talk at the beginning of the season about winning championships – and this is our first [of the year]. We don’t harp on winning the conference, we just try to take it one game at a time because sometimes you can get overwhelmed if you focus too much on the big picture.”

Tuesday, the Kits erupted for four goals in the first 20 minutes to assure another outright crown. DaSilva’s penalty kick marked the only scoring in the second half, as Salgado cleared the bench to make every squad member part of the celebration.

Evanston achieved the 2023 title with a brand-new defensive unit after all four starters graduated following last year’s campaign that ended with a trip to the Final Four. Glenbrook South was the only CSL South team to score a goal against that unit this spring.

The Wildkits bounced back from just their second loss of the season last weekend, a 2-1 decision versus Wheaton North at the Tournament of Champions held in Iowa. The Kits also defeated the top two teams in Iowa, Ankeny and Ankeny Centennial, by scores of 1-0 (penalty kicks), and 2-1, respectively.

Tough games

“We were down 1-0 against [top-ranked] Centennial in the last game and came back to win it. We played three very tough games, and losses happen. You’re not going to have a perfect season,” Salgado said. “It was a good trip for us and it was a good time for me to experiment with some different lineups and move some girls around when there’s not as much pressure on. It helped us in the state tournament last year when we had some girls out [with injuries], because then it wasn’t the first time they’d played certain positions.”

As expected, the Wildkits earned the No. 1 seed for the Class 3A Evanston Sectional tournament according to voting by the coaches. Also claiming top-four seeds were New Trier, Loyola Academy and St. Ignatius.

Evanston opens regional tournament play at Whitney Young at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, against either No. 16 Maine East or No. 17 Von Steuben.

The regional championship game is set for 5 p.m. Friday, May 19, at Whitney Young.

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