Evanston’s young girls water polo team learned a valuable lesson Thursday night. Don’t take anything for granted — against any opponent — when it comes to postseason play.
The Wildkits had to shake off a slow start at the Glenbrook South Sectional tournament before defeating the host Titans 10-5 and advancing to the semifinals of the Illinois High School Association event. They’ll face New Trier, a 12-2 winner over Niles West, on Friday at 8 p.m. and head coach Andy Miner was the first to admit that his team almost got caught looking past their first-round foe.
Syd Hollingsworth’s 3 goals in the third quarter pulled the Wildkits out of their offensive funk as they improved to 18-13 on the season.
“This was the closest game we’ve had against GBS (in 3 matchups), and when you beat teams convincingly like that during the regular season, you forget about the fact that they’ve had a chance to grow as a team and get better and that they’ve had a whole season to build themselves up,” Miner said. “They got better and I think they caught us by surprise tonight. That tends to happen when you’re looking forward to that next game instead of focusing on this one.
“I’m happy that we figured things out in the second half.”
Hollingsworth netted 3 goals, Neha Singh and Halley Seed scored 2 apiece, and Una Stephans, Grace King and freshman Sam Rhoades also contributed goals for the winners. Goalie Leah Freidman stopped 10 shots, half of them coming in the third period when the Kits broke the contest open.
The contest was tied at 4-4 after the Titans got on the board early in the third period on a goal by Toni Zheleva. But Hollingsworth converted a penalty shot two minutes later, and then fired in a pair of goals in the final 51 seconds to give the No. 3 seed Kits some breathing room and a 7-4 advantage entering the final period.
“In the second half we focused more on getting the ball to the 2-meter lane and we got some closer shots,” Miner pointed out. “It took Sydney a while to get going tonight and it all boils down to confidence for her. She had an early kickout (ejection on defense) and that didn’t help. It was good to see her be able to work through it. Hopefully, she broke through that mental barrier with those goals.
“This is such a game of confidence. Glenbrook South was playing like they had us on the ropes, and we felt like we were on the ropes until we turned it around.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.