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Dramatic Win Sends Kit Girls to Toyota Park

By Dennis Mahoney

Only four high school girls soccer teams earned the right to play on the final day of the PepsiCo Showdown Tournament at Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire, next Sunday.

And Evanston will be part of that elite group.

Coach Maurizio Grillo’s Wildkits, first-time participants in the tournament, advanced to the consolation championship game with a dramatic 4-3 semifinal victory over York Saturday in a matchup decided by penalty kicks at Schaumburg’s Olympic Park.

Evanston will take a 10-3-0 record into the consolation title game at 11:30 a.m. on April 27th against Wheaton Academy, a 3-1 winner over Whitney Young. The championship game between New Trier and Buffalo Grove will follow at the home of Chicago’s Major League Soccer franchise.

Olivia Bates converted a penalty kick after a hand ball violation against York in the final minute of regulation play, and ETHS was successful on all of its PK attempts following a pair of scoreless overtime periods.

“I told my girls (at the end of regulation) that at that point it had become a mental game, and the team that was going to show less fear of losing was going to win it,” Grillo said. “We went out with the right attitude and we finished really strong. The overtime periods were all Evanston, and even though we didn’t score, we knew we were the better team.”

Maureen Kerr, Bates, Kira Favakeh and Nora Mertz all scored in the penalty kick portion of the shootout. Mertz’s goal stood up as the game-winner after ETHS goalie Olivia Post recorded a save on York’s first attempt, and the Dukes missed on their fourth try.

The Kits showed their character after York tied the game at 2-2 with 5 minutes remaining in regulation on a wind-aided goal that was booted past Post all the way from midfield. The suddenly-inspired Dukes then found the back of the net again, and led 3-2 with 1 minute left.

On Evanston’s subsequent possession, however, forward Morgan Muno ran into the box to accept a pass from Kerr, and a York defender got a hand on her shot attempt. Bates booted the penalty kick in to forge a 3-3 tie.

York opened the first-half scoring but the Kits pulled even on a goal by freshman Maia Cella, assisted by Alex Berkley. Cella added another goal in the second half, this time off a pass from Muno with 5 minutes to play.

With the win, Evanston equaled last year’s win total for the entire spring campaign.

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