With inspiration stemming from keeper Katie Okamoto, No. 12 Buffalo Grove (10-8-3) stunned No. 5 Glenbrook South in a shootout to defeat the Titans (16-5-3) by a 2-1 verdict (3-1 on penalty kicks) and advance to Saturday's regional final at Palatine against the host Pirates at 11 a.m.
The Titans, who entered their tourney opener unscored upon in their last 12 matches, looked rattled from the first minute to the eighth when Carolynn Wieland, who played marvelous soccer for 120 minutes, finished on the tail end of a wonderful little slalom run through the center channel -- after freshmen Skylar Groth sent the team's leading goal-scorer through.
After that, the Bison, perhaps one of the youngest sides in this regional, played as if they were a veteran-filled roster, as Pat Dudle's club showed terrific composure in each and every 50-50 challenge while playing with speed and possession through the middle to help keep the Titans at bay -- until they would equalize at 53 minutes.
"We're finally getting healthy after going through a rough bout of injuries, and, yes, we might have grown up as a team tonight after playing so much soccer, against a well coached team like South," said Dudle.
"I really feel the turf fits the way this team plays, and tonight we showed that we could play fast (and) quick, from back to front," said Wieland, who all throughout the match was beaten and battered whenever the junior would hold up top for her teammates, on on the turn, when she was most dangerous -- with many of her carries ending on a quality shot on frame.
The Titans used their size advantage in the middle of the park, but they were still unable to play through the midfield thanks in part to the Bison backline -- led by Kelly Mahoney, Lindsay Puppolo and Sierra Bugno and the extra work from the freshmen duo of Colleen and Kelli Zickert.
The Bison allowed the equalizer just moments after Okamoto made a point-blank save on April Cronin -- which led to a rebound and loose ball which an opportunistic Nina Kodras thumped into the back of the net.
The talented senior nearly helped create a sensational scoring opportunity for Cronin when her heel flick almost found her teammate in close in the 106th minute. But that was it for Kotros, who was held in check including the 40 minutes of 4-overtime extra soccer.
The Bison clearly enjoyed the run of play in OT, and generated a couple of quality opportunities.
Once into shootout, the first two rounds went scoreless -- until Groth converted to the right of the diving Kelsey Byers and the Titans' Cronin easily went into the back of the net.
Carly Brown, a bundle of energy on the outside for the Bison, buried her attempt to make it 2-1 ... then it was Okamoto's turn for heroics as she stopped Kathryn Ficho.
A cool, calm Wieland stepped up and sealed the Bison' victory -- and send the members on the bench racing out to meet both her and their keeper to celebrate.
"When the GBS keeper made a save on our first PK attempt, then I started to feel a little stressed out, but after I made my first save, then I was relaxed after that," said Okamoto with a smile.