Evanston booters earn runnerup finish at tourney

Evanston’s soccer team settled for a runnerup finish Saturday at the North Shore Invitational tournament at New Trier’s Naughton Field.

The Wildkits suffered their second 1-0 loss of the season to champion Glenbrook South following a difficult two-week stretch in which their roster was decimated by injuries and had head coach Stacy Salgado scrambling to find competitive lineup combinations against a strong tournament field.

Evanston, now 6-4-2 overall, permitted only a total of 4 goals in 5 tournament games even though the squad’s first and second-string varsity goalkeepers both missed the entire tournament. And co-captain Meg Rogan missed both the semfinal and championship contests --- against two unbeaten teams --- with a neck injury.

Sophomore goalie Abra Levin was handcuffed by a shot from Glenbrook South’s Katie Weiss just two minutes into the second half on a windswept and chilly field at New Trier and that was enough for the Titans (8-0-3) to duplicate an earlier 1-0 triumph over the Wildkits in Central Suburban League South division play.

Levin, who began the season playing forward for the ETHS junior varsity team, was pressed into action in the net in Friday’s semifinal win over Wheaton St. Francis. The daughter of Wildkit assistant coach Neil Levin replaced Ruby Siegel, who returned to lead the defensive unit on the back line, her normal position.

Siegel was asked to fill in on the last line of the defense after both varsity keepers, freshman Caitlin Fitzpatrick and junior Sylvi Imrem, were sidelined by injuries. Imrem has received her doctor’s clearance to resume playing at some point next week.

Although the outcome was the same, Evanston’s progress since the first meeting with the Titans was obvious even with an out-of-sync lineup that required several players to adapt on the fly to new positions.

Salgado actually started two freshmen, Ryann Lucas and Ruby Rogers, on defense in the last two games, probably a first in the history of the program.

“Ruby Rogers is more naturally a center mid, but she stepped in nicely for us,” praised the second-year ETHS coach. “She’s feisty back there and plays the ball well with her feet. When it comes to the lineup, I don’t pay attention to their year in school. Girls mature a little earlier than the boys do and they’re able to hang with the older girls better. It’s still a difficult transition, but the gap between the freshmen and the seniors isn’t as huge. Usually they’re able to step in size-wise and strength-wise. And our freshmen are very adaptable to whatever we need them to do.

“We did play better today than the first time we played them, but after they scored they held their numbers  back and clogged up the space at the end. We didn’t even have a corner kick (opportunity) in this game and we weren’t dangerous because of that. When we do have corners, we’re dangerous. We had better (scoring) chances than the first time we played them, but we just didn’t capitalize.

“We had people playing in places they didn’t expect to play and it’s been tricky for us. We’re learning and we’re growing, and we’ve had to figure out other ways to get it done.”

GBS goalie Libbie Vanderveen stopped 5 shots from the Wildkits in the last 18 minutes, but most of those saves were of the routine variety. Vanessa Eljaiek put 3 of those shots on goal but couldn’t find the back of the net, and her pass to Avery Ackman forced the GBS keeper to her knees for the final save with 50 seconds showing on the clock.

Eljaiek’s free kick in the 25th minute represented Evanston’s best chance in the first half, with the wind howling at the Kits’ backs. She drove the shot off the left upright.

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

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