For the second year in a row, Evanston’s road to the soccer Final Four took a detour in Barrington.
The Wildkits suffered a season ending 2-1 loss to host Barrington in two overtimes Tuesday night at the Class 3A Barrington Supersectional, and were forced to absorb another bitter defeat in a bid to reach the Final Four for the first time since the Illinois High School Association went to three classes and limited the number of state finalist teams to four in each class.
Coach Franz Calixte’s team finished with an impressive 19-2-4 record, but it was the Broncos who advanced behind goals from Zach Carbonara and Michael Blanke and improved to 22-3-1 overall.
Blanke scored the game-winning goal at the end of a brilliant 40-yard scoring run with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first OT, and Barrington held on against relentless ETHS pressure from that point on.
“That’s playoff soccer. It’s a beautiful game, but it can be so cruel, too,” said Calixte. “It was a great run this year and we’re so proud of them. We made it to the Elite Eight two times in a row and we did it this year with only 4 guys back from last year. So we didn’t expect to get here at the start of the season, but we really earned it.
“We let Barrington dominate the first half tonight, but all we did was let them possess. We didn’t let them get dangerous, and then we adjusted at halftime. We knew we were going to score at some point, and we thought if we got it to overtime, we were home.”
Tuesday’s showdown marked the third straight game the Wildkits played overtime, and it wouldn’t have been possible without another highlight-film goal from junior Miguel Jimenez in the 66th minute. He drilled a laser shot from the 30-yard line over the head of Barrington goalkeeper Alex Ruffolo, only the second shot on goal for the losers up until then.
“Miggy’s been doing that for us all season. He must have half a dozen goals like that. He’s just been amazing,” Calixte praised.
Evanston’s back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight marked only the fourth time in school history that feat has been achieved, matching the 1982-83, 1992-93 and 2002-03 squads. But this may have been the best rebuilding job Calixte and his staff have ever put together, considering the lack of varsity players with experience who greeted them when preseason workouts began in August.
The Kit coach credited senior All-State defender Josh Klier and classmate Dylan TerMolen for providing the leadership that brought the squad together as a cohesive unit even though there were so many new faces.
“You have to have great leadership when you have 18 new players,” Calixte pointed out. “There was such a mesh between the juniors and the seniors, and we were as successful as we were because of their leadership. This was a special team and this was a special season.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.