Wildkits work overtime for 1-0 sectional triumph
Sebastian Leon knew that it would mark a personal milestone for him to notch his 20th goal of the season at some point this year.
But he didn’t know just how big it would be.
Leon’s header in the second overtime lifted Evanston’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Glenbrook South Tuesday night at the Class 3A New Trier Sectional and moved the top-seeded Wildkits into the sectional championship game for the 8th year in a row. They’ll face No. 3 seed Oak Park-River Forest, which advanced past host New Trier 1-0 in the other semifinal, at 4 p.m. Saturday for the right to move on to the supersectional.
Evanston’s senior All-State candidate converted a perfect crossing pass from teammate Pedro Rojas with 3 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the second overtime period as the Wildkits eliminated a gallant Glenbrook South team and stayed alive with a 15-2-4 overall record.
So far, nothing has come easy for the No. 1 seed in the postseason, and the winners had to prove that patience is a virtue against a GBS team that played the last 46 minutes and 30 seconds down a man when defender Zarko Pavlovic was ejected for stomping on his ETHS counterpart, Braden Weiss, in a midfield incident midway through the second half.
GBS was already missing two key players due to injuries but proved a stubborn out behind goalkeeper Declan Cloutier, who registered 9 saves for the losers (12-3-6).
Evanston had to find a balance between giving in to the temptation to try to strike quickly for a go-ahead goal, and avoiding a counter-strike by the Titans that could produce an upset. The Wildkits’ veterans did just that.
“We just had to keep playing it straight,” pointed out Evanston head coach Franz Calixte. “We had to spread them out, wear them out and hope they wouldn’t get a counterattack. In the playoffs, you just have to find a way to win.
“GBS really didn’t change their system at all even when they were a man down. It’s so commendable the way they played tonight. They lost one of their captains against Loyola (with a knee injury) and they were down another man because of a concussion, but they still played with such huge hearts. That’s a close knit family there and Coach (Reggie) Lara is so good over there.
“I thought we put them back on their heels the whole time in the first half. Even going into the overtime, we felt good about ourselves. We knew we could wear them down.”
Evanston’s bench played a big role, as it has all season. Rojas, a senior, came in cold and delivered the game-winning pass to Leon for his team-leading 20th goal of the campaign and the Wildkits had no trouble hanging on for the final minutes.
“We always tell Pedro that when we put him on the right side, his job is to put those balls in. He made three good crosses in a row, and the third time was the charm,” Calixte said.
“What a big goal that was for Sebastian tonight. Scoring game-winners is what goal scorers like him do.”
“I remember coach saying he’s only had 3 or 4 guys score 20 goals in a season since he’s been here, so getting my 20th was a big milestone. This one means a lot,” Leon said. “I know it’s a big accomplishment to do that in a program as good as Evanston’s.
“I just ran into the box, Pedro delivered an amazing cross right to my head, and I put it in. We didn’t score in the first half but I knew that goal would come. We just kept our cool (once GBS was limited to 10 players) and didn’t force it. We knew we could get around their defense when we had to. We didn’t force it and we played hard right to the bitter end.”