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Game story: Stevenson feels sharp after ranked win at Evanston

By Bobby Narang, 05/06/24, 11:15PM CDT


2nd half awakening leads to 3-1 victory

EVANSTON – Emotions ran high for Evanston on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildkits closed a challenging week with an emotional Senior Day game against highly ranked Stevenson.

Evanston, which was ranked fifth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, defeated no. 10 Glenbrook South 1-0 April 30 in a physical, tension-filled 80-minute thriller to put itself in position for a third-consecutive Central Suburban League South Division title.

By beating no. 23 Deerfield 3-0 on May 2, the Wildkits claimed the crown, a fact that was proudly mentioned several times by the public address announcer before and after Saturday’s game.

The Wildkits endured a different set of emotions prior to Saturday’s game as the team honored its seven seniors. Injured keeper goalie Shea Lucas and defender Jilian Denlow were honorary starters, which led a flood of emotions for several players and family members on the sun-splashed afternoon.

On the other bench, no. 20 Stevenson came into the contest hungry for a marquee victory over one of the top teams in the state. In addition, the Patriots were motivated to build momentum for Tuesday’s North Suburban Conference showdown at Libertyville.

The visitors accomplished both of their tasks with three goals in the second half to knock off the Wildkits 3-1 at Murney Lazier Field.

In his postgame talk, Stevenson coach Jay Bulev joked to his players that “the beach is one mile away.”

The Patriots, though, made a big enough splash on the pitch.

Maryland recruit Ellie Egeland, the Chicagoland MVP of the Match, scored two goals and Amira Chavez scored on a header for the Patriots (11-3-2, 4-1-1). Stevenson sophomore goalie Reece Yoo also starred in the victory, facing a lot of shots in her direction and dealing with the heat. Yoo was active with her feet and showed great anticipation skills to end with four saves before allowing a goal in the 76th minute.

“It was a really tough game, and we went into it with a strong mentality that we could beat any team in the state,” Ellie Egeland said. “Reece showed that, by being a top goalie and facing the amount of shots they had on us. I feel this is a big win for us. Evanston is ranked top-five in the state, so going into the playoffs this is a really strong win and sign that we can beat anyone in the (Hersey) sectional.”

Yoo was happy with her performance and credited the entire team for playing well in front of her. The Patriots tamed a team that had also defeated Libertyville 1-0 on April 6 and added a 2-1 win over Lyons on April 11.

She took a long-range approach on the win. 

“I feel like this was more of an appetizer, because we have Libertyville next and then the playoffs,” Yoo said. “This is just the beginning. We have to keep staying strong. If we can beat a top-five team, we can beat anyone. The backline was amazing, constantly covering me and taking shots and always getting back and communicating.”

The first half was scoreless but still full of action. Stevenson set the tone with two early shots and dominated possession. Evanston goalie Kanako Wagner played all but 17 seconds of the game after Lucas’ ceremonial start. Wagner kept busy, finishing with five saves in the first half and adding one more in the second.

The Patriots emerged from their halftime session a different team. Ellie Egeland put the crowd in shock with a goal just 12 seconds into the second half for a 1-0 lead.

“We came out in the first half really strong and wanted to keep that intensity in the second half,” Ellie Egeland said. “We had practiced a kickoff play. Right when Ashley Liang got the ball, I knew I was going to make the run and knew that I was kind of close to the goal and didn’t have time. I shot it, and it went in.”

Evanston had two excellent chances to tie game, but freshman defender Kelsey Krull made two strong plays to stop attacks in a 65-second segment. Ten minutes into the half, Evanston missed on two shots and also wasn’t able to convert on a corner kick.

That’s when Chavez struck.

Her goal served two purposes: it deflated the home team; and lifted the Patriots energy. Chavez’s goal came off a free kick from Anabelle Egeland. The header gave Stevenson a 2-0 lead with 21:30 left.

“I was watching it and was right there and checked the ball,” Chavez said. “We went into this game with good motivation and were confident and just tried to play our game. We knew they were a really strong team and had beaten a lot of good opponents, so this win means a lot for us. We all worked hard and played as a team.”

She added that Bulev gave a halftime message that resonated with the team.

“At halftime, he just kind of said to stay composed and told us to just put the ball in the back of the net, and our defense stayed composed to not allow a goal until the last few minutes,” Chavez said.

Just over a minute later, Ellie Egeland showed why she’s one of the top players in the state. She completed the Stevenson scoring ledger with a free kick goal from 35 yards.

“On the free kick, I was more aiming for back post. It kind of curved, so I don’t think anyone was expecting it, because I was fully facing the other way,” Egeland said. “I wrapped my foot around it, and the goalie was off-center. I kind of got lucky on that one.”

The Patriots almost raised the lead to 4-0 but Wagner made a save with 15:55 left in the game. Evanston (15-2-1) finished the game strong, with star forward Jocelyn Leigh attempting two shots in the final eight minutes, and Sydney Ross blasting a shot over the cross bar.

Ross, a sophomore forward, added some sunshine to her team’s day by scoring with 4:39 remaining in the game.

Evanston coach Stacy Salgado said the timing for the Senior Day game was bad in regard to the opponent.

“There wasn’t much thought process into it, just the way our last regular-season home game fell,” she said. “We don’t usually do it during the day. I think the girls kind of like it at night.

“I think overall we played tired and didn’t put away a couple of chances that we needed to. If we did, it would’ve been a different game. We did have some dangerous opportunities. But the way the game goes, it’s not always a pretty game. Getting that final goal at the end showed they didn’t completely give up. It was a good test run for us.”

While her sister scores on a regular basis, Anabelle Egeland is showing she’s among the top defenders in the area. She handled the physicality of the game and made Evanston’s star player, namely Leigh, work for every shot.

“It was a lot to play in this heat. Grace (Harper) and I had one of the best forwards we’ve played this year,” she Egeland said. “She’s amazing. We kind of knew one us had to step in and the other one had to drop behind. I feel especially in the first half, we only gave them maybe one or two shots. I feel like we really shut them down.

“We communicated, and we won a lot of balls out of the air, which was one of our goals. We were also able to play out of the back, which helped us get success in the final third. It was a long game. We were exhausted at the end but worked hard in the last five minutes.”

She added the victory was an ideal outcome heading into Tuesday.

“This was great prep for Libertyville,” Egeland said. “I feel Libertyville is our biggest rivalry. We play them every year in our last game of the season. I feel if we can finish our chances and be solid on defense, we will be successful in that game.”

Stevenson sophomore Harper also deserved praise for her strong play in the back to hold the visitors scoreless for the first 75-plus minutes.

“Evanston is a very tough team and very physical,” Harper said. “We have some tough games coming up against Libertyville and Carmel, so this was a good way to start. We have momentum. 

“Evanston has a really good front line. We have to stay composed. The team did a good job helping us in the midfield. This heat was brutal for 80 minutes. Our team helped us with subs coming in and out, and we had fresh legs.”

Evanston senior forward Lucy Fredrickson said there were a lot of feeling during the day.

“That first goal was definitely a shock,” Fredrickson said. “We were really excited for Senior Day. I know a lot of emotions were happening at the same time, but I think we just had to stick with it. 

“It was pretty tough. I know that opening kickoff had a lot of us tearing up, so going right into play was pretty hard. Those two are two very crucial players on our team, Jill and Shea. We love them very much, and it’s not the same without them. A goalie getting injured is not something anybody wants and both are lifelong friends.

“But we have a lot of potential, even next year and the years after that. This program has a lot of potential.”

Salgado closed out her postgame talk by stressing aspects that the team needs to improve, while also talking about the accomplishment of winning three CSL South titles in a row.

“I think they got two goals off of free kicks,” she said. “We have to be smart. We’ve been working on set pieces, but obviously have to continue working on. Also, being smart on the location of fouls and when a team is good, not giving them free kicks.

“That’s certainly impressive. We had the one loss in conference but came back strong in the other games. It’s a huge accomplishment. It’s one of the toughest conferences in the state, not many teams have been able to win three in a row. We will move past this.”

Starting lineups

GK Reese Yoo
D: Anabelle Egeland
D: Alexa Karagrannis
D: Grace Harper
D: Kelsey Krull
MF: Madison Olsen
MF: Emma Mendoza
MF: Sami An
MF: Ashley Liang
MF: Ellie Egeland
F: Madi Kennedy

GK: Shea Lucas
D: Sydney Johnson
D: Jilian Denlow
D: Maizlyn Kelly
D: Damilola Adeniyi
MF: Mia Darer
MF: Sydney Ross
MF: Maddy Varela
F: Campbell Fleming
F: Lucy Fredrickson
F: Jocelyn Leigh

Chicagoland MVP of the Match: Ellie Egeland, sr., MF, Stevenson

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring

Second half
Stevenson: Ellie Egeland (Liang), 41’
Stevenson: Chavez (A. Egeland), 59’
Stevenson: E. Egeland (free kick), 60’
Evanston: Durkin (unassisted), 76'