In a game of inches, a free 12 yards helps.
A first-half penalty-kick goal from Evaston’s Nahla Dominguez was the only scoring when the ‘Kits met Loyola Academy in a sectional semifinal bout Tuesday, June 8, in Evanston.
“It was an even match. We created some fantastic chances. We were unfortunate not to finish them in the run of play,” Ramblers coach Shannon Hartinger said. “They scored a goal on a PK, and we didn’t score. That was the difference.”
In the 9th minute, after the Wildkits drew an infraction in the Ramblers’ penalty box, Dominguez ripped the free kick into the lower right corner of the net to give her team an early lead it would not let up.
The teams — seeded second (ETHS) and third (LA) in the sectional — spent the rest of the match trading punches in the midfield, with each creating a handful of scoring opportunities.
Loyola put three shots on net late in the first half, including a free kick headed by Kaitlyn Kurtz that required a diving save by Evanston’s Caitlin Fitzpatrick as the halftime buzzer sounded.
“I thought we created some fantastic chances,” Hartinger said. “Some balls were played right off the goal line. We hit it just wide a couple times. … I can’t really ask for them to do much more other than to put it over the line.”
That almost happened during a flurry of activity in the waning moments of the contest.
Twice the ball was served to the middle of the ’Kits goal box and rattled around. Once a touch went wide and another time Evanston defenders had to clear the ball from the goal line.
Evanston and Loyola came into the match with a combined three losses — each team falling once to New Trier and Evanston losing to Glenbrook North.
The Ramblers finish an extraordinary season at 16-2-1 with regional and conference (GCAC Red, 10-0) championships. They had a +65 goal differential (72-7) and gave up just one goal in league play.
The season was made more extraordinary because the Ramblers played a majority of the season with no seniors. The only senior on the roster, Eleanor Jackson, missed most of the year with an injury.
“We’re excited about the group that we had,” Hartinger said. “Obviously, we’re going to miss our one senior, but we’re excited about the junior class and sophomore class as we move forward into next year.”
Loyola landed seven players on the All-GCAC team: sophomore goalie Ellie Bradley, junior forward Katie Diblik, junior midfielder Isabella Guzman, junior defender Kaitlyn Kurtz, sophomore midfielder Eva Pattison, sophomore defender Molly Sipe and junior midfielder Grace Ehlert, the conference’s player of the year.
In the other sectional semifinal, top-seeded New Trier topped fourth-seeded Glenbrook North 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kate Dobsch.
Evanston and New Trier will battle for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Friday, June 11, at New Trier’s Northfield campus.
The Trevians beat the ’Kits 2-0 on May 5 and the teams tied 1-1 on May 19.