Defense rests in first soccer defeat for Wildkits

Naperville North pushed across two goals in the last 11 minutes Monday night against a revamped Evanston defense and handed the Wildkits their first defeat of the 2019 soccer season at Lazier Field.

North’s 3-2 triumph in the second round of the North Shore Invitational tournament  snapped an 8-game winning string for ETHS. The Wildkits, who reached the championship game in last year’s tourney, now need another pool play victory over Mundelein Carmel on Wednesday --- and maybe a North loss or tie --- to advance to Thursday’s semifinals.

After surrendering  just  3 goals in their first 8 games this spring, the Wildkits endured some defensive breakdowns --- especially in the second half --- with starting defenders Lucinda Lindland and Sarah Sollinger on the sidelines due to injury.

But ETHS head coach Stacy Salgado refused to use those absences as any kind of an excuse.

“We’ve got a couple of injuries on defense, but fortunately they’re not major injuries,” Salgado said. “I thought the other girls did a great job of stepping up even not having experience as starters. We knew we weren’t going to go unbeaten this year. We didn’t have enough speed in the back against Naperville North, but I’m not worried about it. This is a solid group of players and I know we can learn from this and build off of it.

“It’s been our goal to get to the championship game again this year ---playing for championships is always a goal --- and we’re still not out of it. You never know what will happen.”

North (4-2-1) got a leg up on the Wildkits in a contentious second half that included yellow cards against Salgado and sophomore Josie Hansen, and a red card issued to assistant coach Nick Gauna. The Huskies prevailed  when the Evanston defense couldn’t clear the ball out of danger  in the latter stages of the second half.

Hannah Martin of North --- with her back to the goal --- nudged a shot past Evanston goalkeeper Caitlin Fitzpatrick with her heel with 5 minutes, 46 seconds left in the game. The visitors then survived two ETHS corner kicks and another restart in the last 2 minutes.

North led 1-0 at halftime on a penalty kick by Leah Shumate. The Kits pulled even in the 46th minute when senior standout Keara Kerr created a corner opportunity, then headed home a boot by Bushala for her 5th goal of the season.

Fitzpatrick kept the Huskies off the board when she denied Martin twice in a row approximately 10 minutes later. Fitzpatrick’s one handed swat of a Martin shot led to a corner by the Huskies, and then she stymied Martin at point blank range again, although the maneuver was actually whistled dead by an off-side call.

The Huskies, however, broke through again when no one on the ETHS defense challenged North’s Maddie Schlecht. She ripped a shot off an Evanston back, then rebounded her own shot for another go-ahead goal in the 69th minute.

That lead lasted less than 60 seconds, as Kerr turned the corner on the right side and fed freshman midfielder Nahla Dominguez for Evanston’s second goal.

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