New Trier is the only soccer team that has proven to be tough for Evanston to beat in the Central Suburban League South division since Franz Calixte took over as the Wildkit boys head coach.
But Waukegan has been just as much a thorn in Evanston’s side as the Trevians have been, and that’s what made Thursday’s 2-0 ETHS victory at Lazier Field so sweet for the home team.
The Wildkits evened their season record at 1-1 following an opening 1-0 loss to Fremd, and turned the tables on a Waukegan squad that whipped them 4-0 a year ago.
Goals by Ndu Nkurunziza (in the 13th minute) and Dylan Taglang (46th minute) gave the hosts the boost they needed on offense as Calixte continued to mix and match different combinations of players in the early season going. The victory also will give the Wildkits some momentum when they host a four-team Evanston Invitational round-robin tournament next week.
Waukegan’s rivalry with Evanston dates back to the Suburban League, and that rivalry is still alive even though the Bulldogs left the CSL South two years ago. Some of Waukegan’s players play on the same FC United squad as Evanston’s top players during the club season and the quality of soccer always seems to reach a high level when the two teams collide, even if they’re not evenly matched in talent.
“They’ve always been tough on us. I can’t remember winning up there,” said Calixte. “Waukegan is always such a great matchup for us and we won’t take them off our schedule. From the freshman B level to the varsity, they have great coaching and we always learn from playing them. They’ve always been a spoiler against us, so this is a good win against a solid team.
“I like the fact that we were able to play a lot of guys tonight and that every single one of them contributed to the win. We asked them to win their individual battles against the guys they were playing, and we did alright in that regard.”
ETHS dominated play for most of the contest and goalie Elliot Hansen was only required to make 3 saves against the kick-and-run tactics used by the Bulldogs. Waukegan’s most dangerous threat came with 9 minutes left in the first half, when Waukegan star Juan Gutierrez ripped a shot that Hansen was able to deflect with one hand after diving to his right.
ETHS defender Nick James blocked a point blank rebound effort by Adrian Moreno and the shutout was intact at halftime. Taglang, a junior, scored his first varsity goal to give the Kits some breathing room in the second half when he converted a pass from Ben Sollinger.
Sollinger started the scoring thrust by fending off a Waukegan player with his arm and delivered a pass with his left foot right across the mouth of the goal.
Evanston’s first tally of the season came off a short corner play just 24 hours after the Wildkits had focused on that area during a practice session. Sollinger started the play, and two passes later Nkurunziza pounded a shot home from right in front of Waukegan keeper Marcos Garibay. Senior Noah Greenberg, who celebrated his own birthday Thursday, was credited with the assist.
“That was a coach’s dream because we worked on that just yesterday,” Calixte pointed out. “We don’t have a lot of big boys in the middle like New Trier does for those corners, so we have to find a way that works for us with the short corners. Noah did a great job on that play and he played a fantastic game on his birthday.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.