By: Luke Drase
The location may have changed from Maine East to New Trier, but just about everything else that occurred during Wednesday night’s sectional semifinal matches, were eerily similar to the year prior.
Top seeded Glenbrook North defeated Leyden 2-0, while the third seeded Evanston beat an excellent New Trier squad 3-2 to set up a rematch of last year’s sectional final.
GBN and Leyden kicked off the nights proceedings with a fast, energetic pace. Like so many times before, GBN got on the board early as Sahil Modi scored from close range, just 13 minutes into the contest.
After the initial goal, GBN seemed content to sit back and counter when presented the opportunity, allowing Leyden to be the aggressors for the rest of the half.
Despite losing out on possession with this strategy, GBN remained rock solid in defense and managed to maintain their 1-0 lead going into the break.
Early in the second half, Leyden had a great chance to equalize. Francisco Toral was left wide open in the box for what seemed like an eternity, but his shot flew 10 feet above the crossbar.
Not long after that chance from Leyden, GBN doubled their lead off a counter attack. Leyden left their defense exposed with all the forward pressure, and Deng Deng Kur found plenty of open space to make it a 2-0 lead.
Leyden had a few more opportunities to close the gap, but they were unable to finish in the final third.
Another wide open shot sent over the bar, and a header that was saved off the line by Daniel Spencer was all that Leyden could muster against a stout GBN back line, giving the Spartans the 2-0 win and a place in the sectional finals.
The second match of the evening between Evanston and New Trier and was another rematch from the 2016 state playoffs.
Evanston struck first in the sixth minute with a mistake at the back by New Trier goalkeeper, Sam Warden.
Warden was put under immense pressure by Evanston’s Sam Pollack, when Warden went to send the clearance down field, the ball ricocheted off of Pollack and into the back of the New Trier net.
Despite the demoralizing error, it did not take long for the Trevians to pick up their keeper. Just one minute later, Ryan Krueger sped downfield found some open space and buried the ball into the back of the net to equalize the game at one.
Evanston would go on to regain the lead, and give themselves a cushion with back to back goals. Before the half, Quinn Ackerman took a shot from 25+ yards away that nestled itself into the very top right hand corner of the net.
On the other side of halftime, it was Johnny Trujillo’s turn to join in on the action, scoring just his second goal of the season to give Evanston a 3-1 lead.
“Johnny, boy he’s been there for us the entire year,” said Evanston coach Franz Calixte. “He’s more of a defensive player, comes in and makes big stops, so it was great that he had that big goal today for us.”
Down two goals with only 25 minutes left in the match, New Trier started to ramp up the pressure. They managed to get one back off a Will Felitto free kick, but were unable to get any closer thanks to an outstanding effort by Evanston keeper, Gavin Rosengarten.
Going against a tall Trevian lineup, the 5’8″ Rosengarten more than held his own, remaining strong with the ball and not allowing the big New Trier forwards to bully him around.
Rosengarten said: “Timing today was a big factor. They had a lot of free kicks and crosses coming in which are tough to judge. It was just a matter of making split second decisions whether to be aggressive or not.”
With one last brilliant kick save from Rosengarten in the dying seconds of the match, Evanston were finally able to celebrate, earning the right to play in their fifth straight sectional championship match.
“Is that right? Wow, I did not know that,” exclaimed a giddy Calixte when notified of his team’s accomplishment. “That’s wonderful, that’s a tribute to these boys putting in the work. They played their heart out.”
Evanston will be looking to get back to their third straight super-sectional appearance when they play GBN in the sectional finals on Saturday afternoon, while GBN will be looking to get revenge against an Evanston team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.