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Evanston’s boys soccer team had to persevere through two lightning delays, bone-chilling cold, a driving rainstorm and numerous stoppages for injuries — plus a second half incident that resulted in the ejection of head coach Franz Calixte.

But it was more than worth the wait for the Wildkits.

Evanston secured its first sectional championship since the 2003 season with a convincing 3-1 victory over Leyden Saturday afternoon in the finals of the Class 3A Glenbrook North Sectional tournament and earned a spot in the Elite Eight.

The Wildkits were finally able to live up to their No. 1 postseason seed after falling short with one-goal losses to Wheeling and New Trier the past two years in the title game. Now Evanston will take a 21-1-3 record into Tuesday’s matchup with Libertyville at 7 p.m. at the Barrington Supersectional.

Goals by Erick Balthazar, Dylan TerMolen and Jesus Villasenor combined with a defense that once again rose to the occasion while eliminating No. 6 seed Leyden, which finished 18-6-1.

“I was really nervous today, but it just feels amazing. It feels so good to get over that hump,” said Balthazar, a senior making his third trip to a sectional final. “We just stayed strong and kept consistent pressure on them all day.”

“I was crying out there when it ended,” admitted another senior standout, Villasenor. “We trained the entire summer for this, three hours a day or more. The senior class last year thought they should have won the state championship — they were a great team — and they said their expectations for us were lower, that we wouldn’t do well this year.

“We had to prove them wrong — and we ended up being better than them.”

Saturday’s celebration at the end didn’t include Calixte. The veteran coach was ejected midway through the second half and had to be restrained by his players from going after the head referee following a play in which a Leyden player stomped on Balthazar’s stomach and face and only a common foul was called. No cards were issued and that led to an outburst from Calixte, who will automatically miss the next game according to Illinois High School Association regulations.

“I’m so proud of all of them right now,” Calixte said. “I wish I could have taken a cue from my players and kept my composure, and I’m disappointed in my choice of language, too. But I see red when I see my kids getting hurt, and what I saw was a stomping and I don’t think it was an accident. He could have broken Erick’s cheekbone, or worse. It started escalating before that, when (defender) Henry Young got hit from behind, but I am disappointed in myself for getting that upset.

“After winning ugly against GBN (2-1 semifinal win), I’m thrilled with the way we played today. We played against a solid team and our boys demonstrated their composure. They showed this season hasn’t been a fluke, and it was a tough first half having to come in and out of the lockerroom like that (with lightning delays in both the 6th and 9th minutes) and we had 2 or 3 opportunities to score before both of those delays.”

Evanston regrouped after the second interruption by using a combination that accounted for most of the Wildkit scoring early in the year. A perfectly executed throw-in from Zane Kashner — against a 15 mile-per-hour wind — to Balthazar produced the first goal of the game with 29:01 left in the first half.

“Give the coaches a lot of credit for that,” Balthazar said. “They had us doing throw-in after throw-in for about 30 minutes yesterday at practice, and today we were able to come out and execute it.”

Ten minutes later, ETHS scored again on a play that started with Adam Trujillo’s service. He connected with Kyle Thompson, who headed the ball to TerMolen. TerMolen netted just his third goal of the season for a 2-0 halftime advantage.

Villasenor added his team’s third goal of the day less than a minute after Calixte’s ejection. The losers did manage to spoil Evanston’s bid for a school record-tying 22nd shutout of the season when, with starting defenders Young and Josh Klier on the bench, a cross from Krystian Havran found Francisco Toral for a header that beat Evanston keeper Adam Masters with 2:35 left on the clock.

“We were hyped up today, even during the delays. We just had to get it done today,” said Villasenor. “I think this was our most dominant game in playoffs, and you’ve got to give our defense a shout out, because they played great.”

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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