Evanston’s soccer team is in a unique position this fall. With so many juniors and seniors who aren’t accustomed to playing together, the Wildkits are trying to strike a balance between competitive daily practices and the goal of unselfish play no matter who’s actually in a given game.

So far? So good.

 The Wildkits wrapped up their seventh consecutive championship at the Evanston Invitational Saturday at Lazier Field, overwhelming Walter Payton Prep 8-1 to finish tourney play with a 2-0-1 record. Baruani Kamangila, Matthew Webley and Kristian Hernandez scored two goals apiece and Dylan Taglang and Ndu Nkurunziza also found the back of the net for ETHS, now 3-1-1 overall.

In many high school programs, a halftime lead of 4-1 like the Kits enjoyed Saturday would trigger selfish play among potential goal scorers — an “I’ve got to get my own goal now” approach with the team’s victory all but assured.

The exact opposite happened Saturday and it wasn’t just a case of the Wildkits being able to toy with a helpless opponent. “That was good soccer today. We scored 4 goals in the second half, and on 3 of those goals the first guy to touch the ball didn’t score the goal,” pointed out ETHS head coach Franz Calixte.  “We had to earn every one of those goals and they’re really starting to understand the idea of team cohesiveness, and playing for each other.

“Every year this tournament is for us to start understanding each other. I thought Webley and NDU had a couple of nice connections even before Webley scored his first goal. Noah (Greenberg) and Ben (Sollinger) have a little thing going  between them, and Nick (Marcotte) and Quinn (Ackman) have a partnership going between them.

“There are new partnerships forming now and that’s what we gained most from this tournament. You don’t want to just have partnerships, because that can splinter a team, but it starts with 2 or 3 guys making connections. You build that up to 6 guys making connections, and then you want to get it to all 11 guys on the field.”

It may take all season for Calixte to settle on a lineup considering that the roster is as deep as just about any the veteran coach has ever had. “We’re not at all any closer to figuring out our lineup, but it will be a good problem for me to have, at least all the way to mid-October,” the coach said.

“The great thing is that we have what Coach (Neal) Levin calls a competitive cauldron every day in practice. Every day in practice they have to compete, to the point where sometimes it feels like we have to hose them down to calm them down. They know they have to compete hard in practice and they have to compete hard once they get onto the field. At the same time, they all have the idea of something big happening for the team at the end of the season.”

Kamangila scored twice in the first seven and a half minutes Saturday, both goals coming on feeds from Sollinger, to ease the tension of a possible tournament upset. Evanston needed at least a 2-0 margin of victory — along with additional points from the penalty kick shootout portion played after every game of the round-robin tourney — to hold off runnerup Lake Forest Academy after being held to a scoreless tie by the Caxys in the second round.

Nkrunziza came off the bench to build the advantage to 3-0 in the 26th minute, and also picked up an assist on a goal by Webley in the 38th minute.

Leading 6-1 after a highlight film goal by Hernandez, who used his heel to score following a short corner kick, both Eric Cyiza and Greenberg passed up scoring opportunities to instead set up teammates Taglang and Hernandez, respectively.   

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.

Dennis Mahoney

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

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