Hungry as Evanston’s soccer team was to punch a ticket to return to the Class 3A Barrington Supersectional, all the Wildkits really needed to add to their diet was a taste of Noodles.
Sophomore goalie Ramin (Noodles) Abraham delivered in the clutch for the second game in a row Saturday, stopping two penalty kicks and helping the Kits take down top-seeded Glenbrook North 2-1 in the championship game of the Maine East Sectional tournament.
The Wildkits will continue their postseason run Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will take a 19-1-4 record into the matchup with the host Broncos (21-1-3).
Evanston’s second straight trip to the super wouldn’t have been possible without the play of Abraham, who is now likely stuck with that unfortunate nickname for the rest of his career. As he did in a semifinal victory over New Trier, Abraham recorded two saves coming off the bench in relief of starter
Gavin Rosengarten with the game on the line in the penalty kicks portion of the contest.
Saturday, Abraham foiled back-to-back attempts by GBN’s Andrew Kwolek and Jackson Grabill, and Miguel Jimenez followed with the game-winning tally for ETHS.
“Holy Cow, these guys are so special!” exclaimed an ecstatic Evanston coach, Franz Calixte. “It’s Evanston grit that did it for us today. There’s something special going on here. These guys truly believe they’re going to win, and they truly believe in each other. Win, lose or draw from now on, this is a special group of kids.”
Abraham began his soccer career as an 8-year-old in his native Syria, but had never faced a penalty kick showdown until this season. He’s now 3-for-3 in the ultimate pressure situation for a keeper, including a season-ending performance against New Trier in the sophomore conference tournament.
“It just feels super amazing to win this game,” Abraham said. “It’s a tough situation for a goalie, and I was really nervous, but I made it through. I was so happy after I got that first stop and I thought, get the next one and we’ll win.”
Evanston outscored the Spartans (22-2-1) 4-2 in the PK portion after both teams went scoreless for the entire second half and two 10-minute overtime periods. Colin Thompson powered home a direct kick for the Wildkits in the 27th minute, only to see North’s Timmy Iscra score on a header off a corner kick with just one second left in the first half to tie the contest.
Evanston didn’t get down — and certainly wasn’t out following a goal that might have devastated a lesser team psychologically.
“We changed our lineup and changed our approach because of the conditions (grass field instead of artificial turf) today,” Calixte noted. “We usually play with 3 forwards, but we had to play more defensive because of the conditions. Once they got that goal and tied it up, we had to go back to the way we usually play. Things happen for a reason.
“By far, GBN is the best team we’ve played this year and that’s quite possibly the best GBN team in their recent history. But we told the kids that the pressure was on them because they were supposed to win, especially when we got to penalty kicks.”
Evanston counted PK scores from Dylan TerMolen, Thompson and Aidan Tobin, and those two stops by Abraham gave Jimenez the opportunity to keep the season alive. His shot was true, but the ETHS junior was probably glad he didn’t have to face his own goalie at that point.
“We’re really happy to have Ramin on this team,” said Jimenez, a team co-captain. “He’s strong and fast — and he’s an athlete. You don’t always say that about goalies. I was very confident with him back there. I knew he’d get a couple of saves for us.
“On my goal I just knew I had to put pace on the ball and make things tough for their goalie (Dan Spencer). It’s a great feeling to be going to the super, and I believe we earned it.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.