Kira Favakeh scored a beautiful goal in an otherwise ugly soccer game Saturday in Northfield.
That’s all it took to deliver Evanston’s first victory over arch-rival New Trier since 2002 — and the first Central Suburban League South division championship for the girls program since 1999.
With a strong northerly wind limiting both teams, Favakeh’s goal with 11 minutes remaining in the contest proved the difference maker.
The soccer purist in ETHS head coach Maurizio Grillo made him cringe every time he saw the two teams doing nothing but exchanging (or attempting) long punts due to the conditions. But Grillo wasn’t about to turn his back on the championship, either.
“When I saw our girls crying after the game, and I saw the emotions on the faces of their parents, I felt really, really great for all of them,” Grillo said. “For myself, honestly I just felt I did the job I’ve been asked to do (in his 4th and final year as the program’s head coach). Now I know I’ve done something nice here.
“It does bother me that this was probably the ugliest game we’ve played since I’ve been here. To me, we only played 15 or 20 minutes of ‘real’ soccer and during that time we did score. But as (assistant coach) Franz Calixte pointed out to me, it doesn’t matter how you win. Still, I’d have loved to have scored a few more on them.”
The victory pulled the Wildkits even with the Trevians on the season after two-time defending state champion New Trier beat ETHS 2-1 in overtime in a tournament game earlier this spring. The two rivals could meet again for the sectional championship in another 3 weeks.
Evanston improved to 16-2-3 overall and concluded CSL South play with a perfect 5-0 record. The Kits will play CSL North champ Deerfield in a crossover title game Tuesday night.
New Trier won the coin toss, and the Trevians pushed hard to break through the ETHS defense for the full 40 minutes with the wind at their backs.
When the hosts couldn’t dent Evanston’s defense or keeper Sheridan Cleave, the contest was tied 0-0 at halftime and the teams switched sides.
Then it was Evanston’s turn to apply the pressure. And the visitors let a golden opportunity slip away when Maia Cella was fouled in the penalty box, but on the ensuing penalty kick just nudged the ball to the New Trier keeper for an easy save.
“She literally passed the ball right to the goalie. I couldn’t believe it!” exclaimed Grillo after his team’s first missed PK of the season. “Maia disappeared (on the field) for us for at least 15 minutes after that, and New Trier was like a beast that had found new life. They were coming at us from all angles, but we had a couple of providential tackles (by Kate Kremin and Ruby Siegel) and Sheridan had another big save.
“But what Maia gives, Maia also takes. She accelerated through at least 6 of their players and got a shot on goal. Even though it didn’t go in, it was what we needed to pick ourselves up again.”
Favakeh’s goal came on a through ball from Alex Berkley.
“We finally started moving the ball and got some through passes,” Grillo pointed out. “The ball was more of a lofted pass from Alex, and Kira timed it perfectly. She found space between two New Trier defenders and the goalie – found space in a really close space — and it still looked like she was going to have a collision with the goalie. But she got a final touch from about 6 yards out and just lofted it over the goalie’s head. “She didn’t give up on the play, that was the most important thing. If she had given up, it wouldn’t have been a goal.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.