No one outside of the city of Chicago considers Lane Tech a state football powerhouse.
But the champs clearly have Evanston’s number. The Lane Tech girls scored midway through the first half Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to top-seeded Evanston in the Class 3A tournament semifinals at Lazier Field.
That loss came nearly seven months after Lane’s boys defeated ETHS, the No. 2 sectional seed, in the regional championship game against Evanston.
Champions goaltender Cynthia Waller made a dozen saves to send the Wilkitts to a final record 19-3-1 victory – nine in the first half. Lane Tech takes a 15-4-2 mark into Friday’s title game against New Trier, a 1-0 double-overtime winner against Loyola Academy in the second semifinal.
Evanston had so many scoring chances in the first half that at halftime it seemed inevitable for the players – and the Wilkitt fans in the stands – that a tie was inevitable.
But sometimes the inevitable just doesn’t happen. “We always seem to find a way to get in — but not today,” Evanston head coach Stacey Salgado said.
“Obviously their goalkeeper made some good shots, but we’ve faced other goalkeepers who are just as good. We couldn’t finish our chances. If one of these
Early chances had failed, the game was very different. “Lane Tech is determined on defense. They threw their bodies there (blocking shots) and
They are a good team. I think our team can make a deep run (at the state tournament) this year. We really believed we were going to do something. But one game can blow you away.
The sense of deja vu between the two schools was only superficial. Evanston’s men’s team was caught looking past the lane in that matchup, while the women followed Salgado’s philosophy and saw the opponent immediately in front of them.
They couldn’t solve the sophomore goalie (5-foot, 10-inches).
Visitors. ETHS senior co-captain Adriana Merriam said, “Every game, whether it’s a ranked team or a bad team, we go into the mindset of respecting the other team. “We always try to play to our level, to raise our level of play and not play down to ‘the other team’. We knew they were a good team. We tried to play our game. It just didn’t work out.”
“When we were at Iowa, we faced a goalie who was tall, but she wasn’t good. This girl was good and we played the ball a lot. We had to do a better job of reading her and finishing our chances, especially on corners.
Evanston’s dominance led to seven corner restarts for the Wildkits for most of the game, and typically those chances are critical in the postseason. Merriam, a senior with a deadly left foot on those corners, started all those games — but finished none.
“If we read her[goalie Waller’s]weaknesses a little bit, we could have played the ball better off the corner,” Merriam said. She is one of the better hitters of their opponents. She doesn’t do Ariel (ETHS guard Ariel Kite) things, but she’s good.
Keith, an All-State goalie candidate, saw her streak of five straight shutouts in the 19th minute of the contest. Lenu’s Jackson Caffey stole the ball away from the Evanston defenders and Wilkitts turned the ball over and ran 40 yards out, past Grace Carman Keith and into the bottom right corner.
This was the visitors’ only shot on goal in the first half. But it was enough to end the careers of eight Evanston seniors who were part of an impressive 40-win streak in two years, including last year’s run to the Final Four.
“Our crosses (passes) weren’t exactly where we wanted them to be, and our balls were high when they needed to be low. Sometimes that happens,” Salgado added.
Replacing seniors Merriam, Keith, Anna Bergman, Molly Reilly, Lily Shure, Eva Francis, Jordyn Kadiri and Shayna DaSilva on and off the field will not be easy.
“These seniors have been a very special group, especially in their leadership,” he praised the head coach. “They bonded on the field, they were good friends off the field and they got along very well with the younger players. They expected our team to work hard, and then they came out and worked even harder.
Bayer-bound midfielder Merrim played the entire game in the freezing cold, suffering from heat and dehydration and had to be carried off the pitch with six minutes remaining. Like many seniors, she left it all on Lazier’s turf.
“I’m really proud of everything we’ve done as a team,” she said. “Especially with the rebuilding that went on last year after we graduated 13 and 14 seniors. I am so proud of all these girls. Forty wins don’t come easily and I think the new girls have come in and really implemented the right (winning) mentality. They have done a good job of leading the seniors as leaders.