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Penalty kicks boost Wildkits past Maine South

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The hypothetical question posed to Evanston head soccer coach Franz Calixte was a simple one.

Of the team’s 8 or 9 varsity forwards, who would win a 50-yard dash?

Morais Lee’s came up. So did that of fellow senior Mikail Part, out with an injury so far this season.

But add a race to the ball to the potential mix, and Calixte couldn’t name any more likely winner than freshman Martin Torres-Moreno.

The speedy first-year player created two penalty kick situations — one of which he converted himself — in the final 16 minutes as Evanston’s unbeaten squad escaped Park Ridge with a 2-0 triumph over Maine South Tuesday night.

Speedy and hungry, that’s what Calixte looks for in his wings, and Torres-Moreno came off the bench to supply both ingredients for a Wildkit squad that improved to 7-0-1 overall, 3-0 in Central Suburban League play.

“Put a ball in there (for a 50-yard contest) and I’d definitely go with Martin, and his speed is what made the difference for us tonight,” said Calixte. “He’s not like a lot of fast guys who go down when you just tap them, though. He runs with such strength. He runs with rage.

“This was his first game back (from a foot injury) in awhile and he didn’t dress for the last game. Playing on a narrow field like this, and against a Maine South team that always plays hard and physical, it was very hard for us to break through. We had to find another way to score tonight, and I’ll definitely take those penalty kicks.”

The frustration was starting to build for the Wildkits, as Maine South goalie Luke Lorenc registered 6 saves — most on routine chances — over the first 64 minutes.

But two minutes after he entered the game, Torres-Moreno burst down the left side for what looked like a legitimate scoring chance on a long pass from senior midfielder Quinn Ackman. But the freshman was tripped in the box by Maine South defender Matt Skorupa, and Ackman buried the ensuing penalty kick to boost the visitors to a 1-0 lead.

Torres-Moreno didn’t stop there. His hustle created another chance, this time in a collision with Lorenc. He actually made two penalty kicks against Lorenc’s replacement — Tommy Prokos, who stepped in when Lorenc was penalized with a yellow card — and the first successful try was wiped out when an ETHS player was caught entering the retaining circle too early.

The freshman didn’t falter, nailing the second try and sealing the victory.

Tuesday’s road win came at a time in the schedule where many Wildkit teams have fallen out of the conference championship race in the past. Ties or losses to non-contenders — including some versus the Hawks or former rival Waukegan — have cost Evanston a chance to capture division crowns and Calixte’s focus had to shift to the postseason by early October.

But this year the Evanston coach and his players are zeroing in on finishing on top in the Central Suburban League South division.

Why the change?

“It’s hard to maintain that level of play for 27 (regular season) games, but these guys are hungry, and I think they need that carrot held out in front of them,” Calixte explained. “We want them to have the expectation of winning every time they step out onto the field, and we want to put that kind of pressure on them. We want to get to another level BEFORE the playoffs start.

“They have to learn to play with pressure in every game. In the past we’ve just tried to build for the playoffs from the start of the year, but we want to play under stress earlier on, and tonight was definitely stressful. We’re deeper this year so we can focus a little more on the conference race, and still have fresh legs at the end of the year, too.”

Evanston resumes CSL action on Thursday night at home versus Niles West.

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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