Evanston’s soccer team earned the No. 1 seed in voting by coaches seeding the Class 3A Evanston Sectional tournament last week.
Now, all the Wildkits have to do is get there.
Evanston was also awarded the No. 1 seed at the end of the 2011 regular season, only to be eliminated by Maine East in postseason play. But currently the Wildkits are riding high after scoring a win (3-1 over Quincy Notre Dame) and two ties (1-1 versus both St. Viator and Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin) and will attempt to build momentum in their final three regular season tests.
Now 12-1-4 overall, Evanston is matched up against Niles North for the Central Suburban League Crossover Championship game, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Lazier Field.
After that, coach Franz Calixte’s squad faces tough non-conference matchups against Stevenson and Warren before opening Illinois High School Association state tournament play. ETHS is assigned to the Loyola Academy Regional tourney and will play the Prospect-Loyola winner on Oct. 22.
Winner of that regional will join three other regional champions at ETHS on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and the sectional championship game is set for Saturday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.
“That No. 1 seed is nice, and it was nice to see the other teams in the conference rally behind us in the voting, because we had the same record as (No. 2 seed) Wheeling,” said Calixte. “We’ll take it, and we’ve done well at home this year. But it really doesn’t mean much once the state tournament starts.
“To me the postseason started for us over the weekend (at that Mid-States Classic tournament in Springfield). All three of the teams we played there have won state championships and it was great competition for us, and we have three good teams left to play now leading up to the sectional, too. It would be nice to win that crossover championship and win some hardware, too.”
Evanston, after hardly trailing at all in any games leading up to the weekend, trailed all three teams by a 1-0 count down in Springfield. Cobi Ortega’s goal in the last eight minutes produced the 1-1 tie with Sacred Heart, in a game in which Calixte used his bench extensively, and Oli Jacques netted the equalizer against a rugged St. Viator team with only two minutes to play.
The Wildkits also trailed Quincy Notre Dame 1-0 at halftime in the finale, then erupted for a pair of goals by Gus Fleps plus one by Christian Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, a junior forward, has become more of an impact player at just the right time, considering that Evanston’s scoring has dropped off against the tougher teams on the schedule the second half of the season.
“Christian’s energy has always been great for us, and he always works hard,” Calixte praised. “But now he’s starting to come into his own at forward and put more shots on the net. Before he’d create chances for himself and miss the net. Now he’s still not scoring a lot, but his chances are being saved, or we’re getting the rebounds. He’s becoming much more dangerous on goal.”