Written by Dennis Mahoney.
After earning the No. 1 seed for their own sectional tournament with a sterling regular season record of 14-1-5, Evanston’s soccer team didn’t seem to be in need of a wakeup call.
But they got one anyway on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Class 3A Loyola Academy Regional tournament before prevailing by a 2-1 margin in two overtimes against Prospect.
Cobi Ortega’s goal with six minutes left in the second OT --- his second goal of the game --- kept Evanston’s season alive and sent coach Franz Calixte’s squad into the championship game Friday at 6 p.m.
“We’ve had issues all year when it comes to not putting teams away, not having a killer instinct, and it happened again tonight,” Calixte said. “We just don’t put teams away when we need to. Prospect scored its only goal of the game on their only shot on goal (with 3 minutes remaining in regulation). We’ve got to put away our opportunities when we get them, and we’ve got to create more chances and play more direct than we did tonight.”
“Maybe this will be the alarm clock to get these guys going now that we’re in the playoffs.”
After a scoreless first half, Ortega converted a pass from senior Aaron Stone to give the Wildkits a 1-0 edge. Prospect got even, then pulled back into a defensive shell before the Stone-to-Ortega combination worked again for the winners.
“Oli Jacques and Aaron worked a give and go, and Aaron was knocked down and no foul was called. He just kept running and got a nice touch off the back post, and Cobi tapped it in,” Calixte said.
Evanston couldn’t convert any opportunities in the first half, with Christian Rodriguez and Brett Lowry owning the best chances in the latter portion of the half. Rodriguez’s boot was saved by Prospect goalie Jack Cooney in the 22nd minute, and two minutes later ETHS sophomore Erick Balthazar was fouled to give the winners a restart try.
Stone’s boot, from an extreme angle on the left side of the field, was headed wide right by Lowry. Mark Roth’s flick in the final 45 seconds of the half was also smothered by Cooney.