Unbeaten Kits kick Payton, repeat as tourney champs

If the celebration for the Evanston boys soccer team seemed a bit subdued Saturday afternoon at Lazier Field it’s only because the Wildkits --- especially the seniors --- experienced a “been there, done that” moment.

Coach Franz Calixte’s team completed a sweep of the Evanston Invitational round-robin tournament with a 7-0 spanking of Walter Payton Prep and captured the tourney title for the 8th year in a row.

Not only did the Kits repeat, but they outscored three tournament foes by a 20-0 combined margin while improving to 4-0-1 on the season overall. They also won all three penalty kick shootouts.

Evanston’s players and coaching staff would all cop to the idea that the tournament allows them to ease into the early portion of the season and that tougher teams await down the road during the regular season. But every season is different, and every year Calixte is still trying to identify strengths and weaknesses even when he has a plethora of veterans returning like this year.

“This tournament fits its purpose for us, because we’re trying to mold our identity as a team,” said the ETHS head coach.  “We thought our strength would be our offense and just look at who is scoring for us. It’s all spread out, and each line we put out there is putting up numbers.

“When these guys click like this, they’re really something to see. This is always a good opportunity to what kind of (offensive) runs we can make, who plays better than who, and what combinations will work best.

“We do expect to win it. The main objective is for us to understand how we’re going to play this season.”

Senior midfielder Quinn Ackman, whose deft playmaking skills are responsible for many of Evanston’s scoring plays even when he doesn’t actually record an assist, enjoyed a three-peat personally because he moved up to the varsity as a sophomore.

“We’ve been there before,” Ackman shrugged, “even though this is the first time we’ve won it this handily. We put a lot of emphasis on finishing shots in practice this week and that’s why we scored a lot of goals in the tournament.

“I think we’re really jelling as a group right now. We don’t really talk about trying to win the tournament, it’s just expected that we will. We have so many attacking options this year that it’s crazy. It’s such a deep bench and there’s no change (in the way the Kits play) when we go from our starters to the bench.”

Ackman actually scored the game-winning PK after the regular game concluded Saturday. In 80 minutes against a solid Payton team, the winners peppered Grizzlies’ goalie Isaiah Cole with a total of 22 shots on goal and senior Matthew Webley led the scoring parade with two goals in the first 13 minutes to set the tone.

Freshman Martin Torres-Moreno and Baruani Kamangila also contributed two goals apiece, with Morais Lee adding the other tally for the winners.

Webley has stepped up as the leading offensive threat in a lineup that is packed with scoring forwards. He was injured at this stage of the season last year, but is more than making up for lost time.

“He’s starting to play with more confidence now,” Calixte pointed out. “When he plays a simple game, he can be one of the top players in the area. His stats will increase as he simplifies his game. He’s the type of player who makes the players around him better --- as long as he keeps it simple --- and he can definitely play at the next level.”

 

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