Other freshmen have made a big impact for Evanston’s girls soccer program at the varsity level in the past.

But Bridget Durkin’s achievement in her first state tournament game Tuesday was definitely an eye-opener.

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

Durkin delivered her first varsity hat trick, scoring three goals in her postseason debut, as the Wildkits whipped Maine East 9-0 in the opening round of the Class 3A Whitney Young Regional tournament. The slaughter rule victory propelled Evanston, the No. 1 sectional seed, into the regional finals where they’ll meet Young at 5 p.m. Friday. The Dolphins advanced with a 2-0 triumph over Jones Prep.

Now 18-2-1 on the season, the Kits toyed with the Blue Demons and moved into position to win their ninth Illinois High School Association regional crown in a row.

Another hat trick

Jocelyn Leigh added three goals and an assist, and Mia Darer and Syd Johnson each netted their first goals of the season in the one-sided affair. Evanston’s 7-0 halftime lead cut the second half clock to just 20 minutes of action, according to the IHSA slaughter rule, and the Kits basically just played keep-away from the Blue Demons for the last 10 minutes on the clock.

The long bus ride to play in Chicago, and the long layoff (the Kits hadn’t played a game since last Wednesday) didn’t lead to anything close to an upset. Maine East finished the season with a 5-18 won-loss record and didn’t put a single shot on goal Tuesday.

Durkin, a freshman forward, actually doubled her goal output on the season with three goals in the first half. She might have added a fourth on a play right before halftime. East goalkeeper Aliya Adriani, aggressive to the ball all day, raced out to confront Durkin in a 1-on-1 situation and grabbed the ball outside the goal box area.

Durkin likely would have scored on the play. Instead, teammate Lily Shure took a free kick and scored with just 5.5 seconds remaining in the half.

“It’s definitely so nice, to have some goals fall in a state playoff game,” said Durkin, who ranks third on the season list for assists with seven to date. “Today my teammates played such a huge part in giving me all those opportunities. I’m surrounded by players who are so good.

‘A hard pill to swallow’

“My goal since last July was just to make the varsity and I really worked at it. But I definitely did not expect to play this big a role. Playing on the varsity is a lot faster, and it’s kinda been a hard pill to swallow for me in some ways, coming from club [where she was her team’s primary scorer] to not scoring goals up here.

“I want this team to succeed, and that’s what keeps me going every game, every touch I get, I want to get this team as far as we can go. With the role I have now, it’s become more of a team sport for me, and I think that’s great. Playing with so many people who are better than me was an adjustment, but it’s also the biggest gift I could get because I have a level I have to meet every game. I have to play to their standard, not just my own.”

ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado recognized that Durkin’s contributions went beyond the stat sheet right from the start of tryouts.

“Bridget’s such a dangerous player overall, and she creates so much for us,” said Salgado. “Obviously, she’s able to finish in one-on-one situations too. She’s starting to click now and use her strengths as a player. She’s 100% effort – all the time – and she has the speed and the change of direction in her game. She stepped in and jelled very quickly with the rest of the girls.

“Today probably wasn’t our highest level of play, with the [80-degree] heat and the long bus ride. But we had moments where we had some good connections out there.”

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