Nearly a week after securing the Pepsi Showdown championship trophy, Buffalo Grove made progress toward yet another piece of celebratory hardware.
After a 2-0 victory over visiting Schaumburg on Friday, the Bison (17-0-1, 8-0-0, 24 points) have all but closed the door for Mid-Suburban East challengers Hersey and Prospect in the divisional race. BG is after its first Soccer Bowl appearance since 2004.
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A goal at two minutes from sophomore Jessica Kovach and another by Kelli Zickert in the 61st minute, helped keep the Bison perfect in conference play with just Palatine, Hoffman Estates and Conant left in the regular season.
"It's not over until it's over," said Buffalo Grove coach Pat Dudle after watching keeper Sarah O'Connor register her 11th shutout of the season. "Schaumburg really comes hard at you, and they make you work for everything you get. But as I've said before, this is a special group of players that we have here. Their work rate is always very high, and it shows when you're playing a tough MSL opponent like Schaumburg."
The Bison were impressive off the opening whistle, a step quicker to the ball than the Saxons (5-8-1). Before the visitors knew it, they were facing a 1-goal deficit when Kovach used a lovely touch with her low shot to go just inside the back post.
"Buffalo Grove is not the type of team you want to give an early goal to," said Schaumburg coach Greg Charvat. "A team like that who possesses well and has so many weapons cannot be allowed to get comfortable and confident against you right from the start. So almost immediately, we were on our heels.
"Thankfully, Amanda (Kelly) and Tressa Palcheck were superb tonight to help keep us close, but in the second half, they just wore us down and pretty much owned the run of play."
Palcheck, the Saxons' senior keeper, turned around a handful of quality shots, most of them coming when the Bison beat the visitors' aggressive offsides trap, putting them in 1 v 1 situations with Palcheck.
"We had some trouble beating their trap, and we talked about it at the break," said Dudle. "When we finally solved it, we were able to create some great chances -- but their keeper made some terrific saves when we did."
Skylar Groth put Kelli Zickert through within a matter of minutes on two occasions, and if not for a brave effort from Palcheck, the Bison might have broken the match wide open.
However, when BG's Allie Ingham and Sara Busse escaped the Saxons' trap with quickly played passes, it set Zickert free, and the junior finished nicely to double the lead at 61 minutes.
Saxons leading scorer Jenna Eaker left with an injury midway through the first period. She returned later, but it was clear the senior was not 100 percent healthy.
"We have a lot of trouble scoring (anyway) and to have Jenna (out) makes things all that more difficult for us," said Charvat.