About one dozen of Evanston’s soccer alumni came back to Lazier Field Tuesday night to watch the Wildkits open their season against Barrington.
And not once was Kit coach Franz Calixte tempted to ask any of those ex-defenders if they still had any eligibility remaining.
Evanston’s rebuilt defense passed its first test and the Wildkits earned a measure of revenge against the team that eliminated them in last year’s Class 3A state playoffs, blanking Barrington 2-0 at Lazier Field.
Chloise Nkurunziza and Sam Bogan both scored second half goals for the winners, who limited Barrington — last year’s state runner-up — to just one shot on goal.
Playing together for the first time, the defensive unit of junior Reed Hurtig, senior Alex Coronel, senior Niko Kapetan and Ben Sollinger teamed up with midfielder Issac Diop to limit the losers to just one (deflected) shot on goals.
Both Hurtig and Coronel were credited with blocked shots in the first half, and a sprawling dive on the goal line by Hurtig in the second half just 30 seconds after the Wildkits tallied their second goal resulted in the only save of the night for senior goalkeeper Gavin Rosengarten, who smothered the ricochet.
“They’re the newest group on the field, that’s why it was a concern coming in,” said Calixte. “And that was because of their (lack of) experience, not their talent. I give them a high B, because after all it was a shutout. I saw a lot of communication out there. Yesterday in practice we were struggling to find our shape, but Issac is starting to understand how we can play through him in the defensive midfield. He’s starting to understand the system.
“I’m still looking for more composure back there. You could see they had some butterflies tonight, but that’s to be expected. I want to see them play confident and composed back there. Tonight is a good win for us. It wasn’t always pretty, but their No. 9 (forward Klaus Pallan) scored 31 goals last year and had a goal in just about every game, and tonight he didn’t get many chances at all.”
After an even first half, the hosts broke through on a spectacular shot by Nkurunziza in the 43rd minute. He got possession at an extreme angle on the left side of the field, then bent a 20-yard drive just inside the right post and past Barrington keeper Brett Sprengel.
Nkurunziza’s exuberant back flip to celebrate the goal drew a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct, and drew Calixte’s ire to the point where the ETHS coach was also flagged with a yellow card.
Nkurunziza’s celebrations have drawn cards from referees in the past, but Calixte didn’t think the junior midfield crossed any lines on Tuesday.
“He does things like that from time to time when he scores a big goal,” admitted the ETHS coach. “But it really bothers me that he got a yellow card for that. We don’t want excessive celebration, but when a 16 or 17-year-old kid scores a beautiful goal against a classy team, he gets excited. All that adrenaline was pumping and it meant a lot to him to score that goal. We want our guys to play with passion.”
Evanston’s second goal came on a long pass from Colin Thompson to Bogan with 21:58 remaining, as Bogan buried the shot with one touch.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.