By Patrick Z. McGavin
EVANSTON — The Evanston players almost certainly felt a peculiar and intense whiplash sensation.
How else is to describe a crazy turn of events where the conference game against Glenbrook South featuring a dominant first half performance was literally rendered null and void in a matter of seconds.
Such is the life and emotional extremes of a high school soccer player.
“We had a really good first half, but we just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net,” Evanston midfielder Shayna daSilva said. “I was just happy that we kept trying, and we didn’t really give up.”
Glenbrook South is battle tested with eight games against teams ranked in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 at the time of this meeting.
“We are giving it our all out there, even when the outcome doesn’t go our way,” defender Christina Papadatos said. “We are still trying and looking to get better as we move deeper into our season. These are the type of experiences we are learning from.”
Evanston’s superior offensive opportunities and the Titans’ unfortunate luck foretold the end.
Midfielder Sydney Ross blasted home a beautiful left-footed ball from 24 yards in the 51st minute that gave the Wildkits, ranked eighth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, a 2-1 victory in Central Suburban League South Division play Tuesday night.
Baylor recruit Adriana Merriam scored late in the first half and was credited with the game-winning assist for the Ross goal.
She pushed the ball into space and slotted a perfect pass that Ross collected and followed with a quick and decisive soccer move.
“I like playing with my back to the goal,” Ross said. “I checked my shoulder, and I saw the space behind me, and I saw the keeper came a little bit off of her line.
“She had been really athletic all night making some of those saves up in the air, so I knew I had to get it just right over her head.”
The quick conference turnaround came after both teams played in the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic.
Evanston (9-1-1, 2-0-0) rebounded after suffering its first loss of the year in the 4-1 championship game loss against no. 3 Lyons.
“I think Saturday against Lyons was a bit rough for us, but we knew that we could come back,” daSilva said.
“Even after they tied the game, we still felt like we had the game in our pocket. We just had to stay composed. I thought we connected really well tonight.”
Junior keeper Lyndsey Mack was brilliant for Glenbrook South (5-8-0, 0-1-0).
She posted nine saves, showing exceptional toughness, quick reaction-time and the willingness to come hard off her line to challenge the gifted Evanston attack.
The Titans’ defensive skill was clearly a collective endeavor.
The best example played out in the 17th minute when Mack came out to cut off the angle of Evanston star forward Jocelyn Leigh on the left edge.
Leigh managed to get just enough touch on a ball that appeared destined to find the open net goal from about nine yards.
Papadatos, a captain, spark plug and stabilizing presence in the back, trailed the action and recovered for the brilliant clearance just before the ball crossed the goal line.
“We have been working on communication, and just keeping everything clear, knowing who’s stepping up to the ball, who’s clearing the ball, and just talking in a way that is making us a better team,” Papadatos said.
“We always know who is on the ball, and who’s off it.”
The Titans are never going to back down from a challenge. Five of their losses have come against no. 21 Lockport, no. 20 Lincoln Way East, no. 3 Lyons and no. 15 Naperville North.
They have also played Stevenson, Loyola and Warren, current honorable mention teams that were previously ranked.
Mack’s outstanding efforts and the fact the Titans were in striking distance at the start of the second half proved reassuring.
“I think the fact that we were down by just one goal at halftime brought a new energy,” midfielder Katie Condon said.
“We just knew going into the second half, we had to come out hard. I think we answered by creating more opportunities, and getting the ball forward.”
Glenbrook South stunned the Wildkits in the opening seconds of the second half.
Playing with focus and desire, the Titans punched the ball forward, creating a foul just inside the 30-yard line.
Condon stepped up and nailed a beautiful free kick from 38-yards out that took a sharp bounce and curved beautifully inside the goal.
“We got the foul right away, and we did a good job of finishing our opportunities,” she said.
“The goal was the result of communication that comes from wanting it and being really physical at the end of the day.”
In the first half, forward Claire Baim was free in space and got a couple of shots off from distance that Evanston keeper Ariel Kite collected. The Titans did just enough offensively to make the Wildkits honest and aware of their attack.
Working in the shadows, to some extent, of the play of Merriam and Leigh, daSilva has been a revelation for the Wildkits.
Athletic and dynamic with the ball, she is highly creative and dangerous. She set up the Merriam goal in the 32nd minute.
She also peppered Mack with a series of shots, demonstrating superb shot creation and the ability to create a constant sense of pressure on the ball.
“I think against Lyons, I was playing a little bit more defensively, and I realized tonight I had to push up and draw their defenders more,” daSilva said.
“I noticed there was space in the middle that I should start moving into, and I thought we did a great job of creating opportunities.”
After playing her role to perfection, daSilva earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.
“I’m the kind of player who loves setting up my teammates, and watching them score,” she said.
She also had the hockey assist on the game-winner, delivering the initial ball to Merriam that eventually moved to Ross.
“I think what I took away from the loss Saturday was I need to start realizing when things aren’t going our way, what do I need to do to start doing things differently,” daSilva said.
“Today we knew what was working, finding our forwards and playing off them and driving out their defenders.”
The Condon goal at the start of the second half energized the Glenbrook South attack.
In falling behind a second time, the Titans showed vigor and toughness. The team created multiple corner chances. Kite had five saves for the Wildkits.
Glenbrook South was particularly dangerous on a sharp ball by forward Kate Winter in the 63rd minute and another blast by Baim in the 72nd.
The most heartbreaking moment came in the 66th minute on a shot at the top of the box from forward Payton Davidson that hit off the crossbar.
Glenbrook South was right there, step for step, most of the night. One bad bounce, and the outcome was very much in doubt.
“I have trained with some of their players,” daSilver said. “I knew it was going to be a really good competition. They are a quality team that never gave up.”
GK: Lyndsey Mack
D: Adyson Clemen
D: Jackie Stadler
D: Emily Ibarra
D: Christina Papadatos
MF: Madison Wessel
MF: Katie Condon
MF: Jackie Milott
MF: Lauren Koppersmith
F: Claire Baim
F: Sofia Sommer
GK: Ariel Kite
D: Molly Riley
D: Jordin Kadiri
D: Anna Bergmann
D: Maddy Ball
MF: Sydney Ross
MF: Adriana Merriam
MF: Mia Darer
MF: Shayna daSilva
F: Lily Shure
F: Jocelyn Leigh
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Shayna daSilva, sr., MF, Evanston
Evanston—Adrianna Merriam (Shayna daSilva), 32nd minute
Glenbrook South—Katie Condon (free kick), 41st minute
Evanston—Sydney Ross (Merriam), 51st minute