As far as tuneup matches go, there haven’t been many that were better than Wednesday afternoon’s match between Evanston and Fenwick.
In front of the founding members of the Evanston girls soccer program, the Wildkits three goals in quick succession were ultimately the difference in their 3-2 win over Fenwick.
“It’s a tuneup game. We had a pretty stacked schedule and usually you would schedule a lighter team at the end but we set a hard team,” said Evanston coach Stacy Salgado. “For Fenwick as well, it was a good way to prepare for what’s next.”
During the first 20 minutes of the contest however, Evanston were put on the back foot by Fenwick’s attack.
The Friars dominated possession in the midfield and and sent piercing through balls through the middle of the Evanston back line.
In the ninth minute, one of those through balls turned into a break through, as a perfectly weighted pass landed at the feet of Shannon Erhardt who slotted in the bottom-right corner of the net to give Fenwick a 1-0 lead.
Evanston managed to settle in after the goal, but still struggled to push forward into the final third.
The Wildkits got their first chance in the 23rd minute off a corner that found the save hands of Fenwick keeper McKenzie blaze, but there were not to be tied just a minute later as they tied the match up at one.
Salgado said: “We didn’t show that sense of urgency early but once we got that goal we found a little bit more.”
From that point on, Evanston dominated the run of play attacking Fenwick at every opportunity to carry the momentum into halftime.
Evanston finally got the breakthrough they were looking just three minutes in the second half as a perfect ball sent in from a corner from Hadley Bushala found the head of Callista O’Connor to give the Wildkits a 2-1 lead.
“She’s really strong with the ball,” said Salgado. “She has speed and she knows where to go and she gets there.”
Just two minutes after that, Keara Kerr doubled Evanston’s lead with a shot from outside the box that just managed to slip past Blaze.
Not content with sitting back and letting the clock run out, Evanston continued to attack which managed to avoid a Fenwick counter for over 30 minutes until the Friars pulled within one goal with 10 minutes remaining off of a set piece.
The goal gave Fenwick a late burst of energy that put some pressure on the Evanston defense, but the Wildkits, led by sophomore keeper Sylvi Imrem fended off the Friars for the win.
Evanston will now go onto navigate one of the toughest sectionals in the state of Illinois where some familiar foes such as New Trier, Loyola, and Glenbrook South loom. But the Wildkits tough schedule capped off by Fenwick, will only be advantageous come deep into playoffs.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Salgado. “It just prepares you for the playoffs, and we do face all of those teams to get out of our sectional so it’s a battle, and I truly believe whoever gets out of our sectional has a good shot at a state championship.”
The fourth seeded Wildkits will start their playoff run on Wednesday in the regional semi-finals against Lincoln Park, while down in 2A. fellow fourth seeded Fenwick will also face off against a CPS foe in Steinmetz.