Buffalo Grove's girls soccer team continues to impress.
After advancing into the finals of the Pepsi Showdown on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over New Trier, the Bison gave a rousing performance in the rain Monday night to defeat Mid-Suburban West leader Barrington 1-0 in what could be a preview of the MSL Soccer Bowl next month.
Allie Ingham struck the game-winner at 67 minutes for Buffalo Grove (13-0-1, 5-0-0-15 points).
Then an inspired back line, with the help of keeper Sarah O'Connor, helped keep the Fillies (4-3-1, 3-2-1-10 points) winless over their last three matches.
"The first 25 minutes we played very good soccer and out-chanced Buffalo Grove, but we've got to start finishing those chances very soon," said Fillies coach Ryan Stengren, whose club scored 14 goals in its first three matches of the season but has just 3 over the last five.
"They really put us under in the first 20 minutes or so, and if not for a big save from Sarah (O'Connor) maybe it's 1-0 Barrington," said drenched BG coach Pat Dudle, who watched most of the big match under an umbrella as the skies opened up time after time during the 80 minutes of action. "But we finally got back into the game, and slowly took over possession in the last 15 minutes or so of the first half. And after that, we got back to playing our style of soccer, scored a few goals, then had to count on our backline, which is unsung but very steady and strong."
The visitors started quickly, and just six minutes in Molly Pfeiffer headed a Mia Calamari corner wide, before O'Connor then stopped Jenna Szczesny, who came through to collect a ball over the top from Calamari.
The Bison sophomore keeper was brilliant two minutes later when she went airborne to somehow turn around a left-footed blast from 22 yards by Aimee Pierce.
With the Fillies winning most of the 50-50 opportunities at midfield, their counterparts at the position were struggling to get the ball to the dynamic scoring duo of Colleen and Kelli Zickert. That made for plenty of one-way traffic going in the direction of O'Connor and defenders Shannon Guercio, Sara Brawley and JayJay Lowery.
"We didn't come out very strong, and we had a lot of trouble stringing passes, and getting forward," said BG sophomore Jessica Kovach. "But once we finally did so and played some good combination play, we got back the run of play, then carried it over in the second half."
BG had some nervous moments just before intermission, especially when Kelly VandeMerkt went down and stayed there after a 50-50 challenge near the midline. The senior was eventually taken away in an ambulance.
"We heard that Kelly is doing fine, and that was the best news of the night," said Kovach, who stepped into more of a defensive-mid spot in place of her fallen teammate for the second period.
Kovach initiated the first goal of the night with a corner from the near flag. Colleen Zickert stepped between a couple of defenders and delivered a close-range shot past Fillies sophomore keeper Hannah Luedtke.
Barrington responded just two minutes later, with Molly Pfeiffer firing a 30-yard blast high into the net at 63 minutes after Katie Hoots did most of the work to set up the senior.
Pfeiffer's goal opened things up from both sides as end-to-end action became the norm.
But it didn't take long for the Bison to regain the lead, and thanks to some marvelous work by Sara Busse and Ingham, the Bison grabbed a 1-goal advantage in the 67th minute.
Busse's clever run and carry up the right side allowed her space and time to play the ball to the feet of Ingham, and her one-timer quickly went past Luedkte.
"We are still a very good team, and we're going to be there at the end, but right now, we're just not doing enough to win these types of games," said Stengren.
"This was a big game for us against one of the top teams around, and someone who we feel will be right there with us in the fight for the top of the table," said Dudle. "We got a taste of playing against a big, strong team that really comes at you when we went against New Trier on Saturday -- and we did well then, and again tonight."