Mid-Suburban East girls soccer powerhouse Buffalo Grove (10-0-1) cruised into the semifinals of the Pepsi Showdown by brushing aside No. 11 seed Glenbrook North 4-1 Thursday afternoon on the turf at Techny Park in Northbrook.
Goals from the Zickert sisters, Colleen and Kelli, in the first period highlighted a majestic 40-minute performance. The rest of the way, the Bison were in command.
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Next up for BG is a contest with New Trier on Saturday at Olympic Park in Schaumburg. The No. 7-seeded Trevians (8-0-1) advanced by upsetting No. 2 seed Metea Valley 1-0.
"Scoring that first goal was so big for us, and after that we just kept going at them, continued to play hard, and just tried to add to our lead," said BG junior midfielder Skylar Groth.
"Buffalo Grove is a very good team," said Craig Loch, who went 10-9-2 last spring in his first year after taking over for long-time Glenbrook North coach Paul Vignocchi. "They possess well and move the ball around very quickly. But we didn't do well connecting between our midfield and people up front, and that's why we had trouble out there today."
Groth and company never really allowed the Spartans (4-2-3) much of anything through midfield.
It was clear from the opening whistle the hosts might have troulbe with their second straight higher-seeded opponenet. The Spartans gave away possession too often in dangerous areas and had trouble matching the upbeat tempo the Bison are starting to be known for.
Groth, Jessica Kovach, Kim Herzog, Carly Brown and the Zickerts used quick, precise touches over the width of the surface to pry open the Spartans regularly. By keeping Glenbrook North on the defensive, the Bison prevented standout midfielder Rachel Hirshman the chance to find either Maggie Doar or Montana Paley up top.
"We knew they wanted to target their front-runners," said BG coach Pat Dudle, "but our midfield defended so well today . . . and even though GBN came at us hard for 80 minutes, we were able to play our game for most of the day -- which is unselfish, attractive and good soccer to watch."
Colleen Zickert finished what Sara Busse and Kim Herzog started to open the scoring at 15 minutes. For the next quarter-hour, the better chances were falling to Dudle's squad, one after another.
Busse and junior Allie Ingham ran hard at the Spartans' back line whenever they were on the pitch, and their constant pace produced regular opportunities.
If not for a pair of well-timed blocks inside the box from Sia Dagrizikos, the Bison could have added to their lead. In the long run, it wouldn't matter, as Kelli Zickert doubled the BG lead just three minutes from intermission with a nice finish off a helper from Kovach.
"This is a team that enjoys each other, and really likes to play soccer the way that we do," said Colleen Zickert.
The Bison were back at it again after the break, and seven minutes into the second period, Kelli Zickert was rewarded for some terrific individual work when Busse put her through. The junior cut inside her marker, shielding the defender before slotting under keeper Julie Everakes from in close.
Ingham put the game out of reach at 71 minutes after Jessica Ahumada helped start the sequence.
The Spartans' Maggie Washelesky scored a consolation goal in the 80th minute to break up Sarah O'Connor's bid for a shutout.
"Our conference has helped prepare us for this final stretch run of this tournament, and it should be an exciting, thrilling atmosphere for our semifinal this Saturday," said Dudle.
Hersey 1, Lake Forest 1: Kaitlyn Smetana's second-half goal helped the Huskies net a tie with the Scouts in consolation bracket action of the Pepsi Showdown. Morgan Harris made 4 saves for Hersey.