Evanston girls water polo coach Andy Miner summed it up in one sentence.
“This one hurts.”
One win short of a trip to the Elite Eight, the Wildkits missed a golden opportunity to score tied at 10-10 with less than 2 minutes to play and fell 11-10 to arch-rival New Trier in the championship game of the Glenbrook North Sectional tournament Saturday.
The Trevians — not the Wildkits — will move on to the Illinois High School Association state quarterfinals next week.
Halley Seed’s goal with 2:08 remaining in regulation play came just 15 seconds after New Trier had taken a one-goal lead. Then came the play that signaled the beginning of the end for ETHS, which finished 22-11-1 on the year.
Mina Dizdarevic, a two-way standout for the Kits who tallied 3 goals Saturday, unexpectedly found herself wide open for a shot on the left side. But she rushed the attempt, which clanged off the far post, and that misfire preserved the 10-10 tie.
New Trier finally prevailed when Leah Caywood lobbed a high shot over the head of ETHS goalie Rachel Lott and the sophomore couldn’t reach high enough to deflect it with 47 seconds left.
ETHS had one last gasp, but New Trier goalie Maddie Beacom easily handled a shot by Claire Kennedy and the Trevs ran out the last 30 seconds on the clock.
“Once we tied it, I really trusted our ability to score again,” said a somber Miner. “Mina had a high percentage chance there, and she took a great shot. It just didn’t fall our way. 9.9 times out of 10, she’ll score on that play.
“This was a pretty tough loss to take. Things just didn’t pan out for us. There are girls on this team, even on our bench, that will give their life for this team. They’ll do anything you ask, and do it TWICE. We had winning the sectional as a goal from the start of the season. This group just wanted it and this is what they were all fighting for.
“We didn’t shoot a very high percentage on our man-ups (player advantage) and that hurt us today. New Trier did get off to a fast start and that’s probably one of the best New Trier teams we’ve played over the years. But I knew we’d fight back before they took control, and that’s just what we did.”
Seed and Dizdarevic netted 3 goals apiece, Natalie Long and Sydney Hollingsworth each scored a pair, and Grace King added a pair of assists for the Wildkits in the season-ending loss.
As expected, New Trier’s defense zeroed in on Seed, a prolific scorer for ETHS who missed most of the season with a broken finger on her shooting hand. Seed scored 6 goals in Friday’s wild 16-13 overtime victory over Maine East in the sectional semis.
The senior standout took time to take pride in her team’s finish after her tears had dried.
“We’ve been at this point 3 times and I was ready to change the mold today,” she said. “Syd (Hollingsworth) and I wanted this more than ever. Every time we play New Trier we all put our hearts and souls into it. I knew we could beat them today. We just got beat by a couple of lobs that our goalie couldn’t physically get to.
“I missed 75 percent of the season with the injury and it was hard to sit and watch. I didn’t know where I’d be when I did come back. New Trier is a strong guarding team, and I got accustomed to them dropping as many as 3 girls back on me, so I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to score today. My teammates got a lot of open perimeter shots that way, though.
“I scored that last goal from a different position on a restart, and I don’t think New Trier was expecting that. That was a kinda last resort play that we’ve practiced.”
As it turned out, it was Evanston’s last goal of 2019.
“Halley didn’t look too good when she did come back (at the Lincoln-Way East tournament), and I had a conversation with her then about making things happen and if we could rely on her or not in the middle,” Miner noted. “After that, we were a different team when she was in the water.
“New Trier was always dropping on her today, and we just didn’t make enough outside shots. We had a lot of opportunities we should’ve made.”
Seed rose to the occasion with the season on the line Friday in the semifinals versus Maine East. She tied the score with just 10 seconds left in regulation play, and the Wildkits outscored the teams in the overtime period to keep their season alive.
Hollingsworth added 3 goals and Long, Dizdarevic and Maya Weiss added 2 each for the winners.