24th MSL Soccer Cup
Barrington (12-4-1) vs. Buffalo Grove (21-1-1)
Where: Grant Blaney Stadium, Buffalo Grove
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
History lesson: Barrington wons its fifth MSL championship with a 1-0 win over Hersey last May; it was the Fillies' second title in three years. The is the eighth visit to the MSL Cup for the Fillies, who trail only Fremd (11) in the number of overall appearances. This will be Pat Dudle's first trip during his six-year stint as head coach, and the first for the Bison since 2004 when, led by the dynamic duo of Jessica Kaiz and Samantha Olson, they lost in 2-1 in OT to Fremd. The Bison won their only title in 1993 over Schaumburg (2-1) on a second-half goal from Meredith Vail. The Bison went into that match with a 14-game shutout streak. This year, in a well-played match despite driving rain, the Bison defeated the MSL West champs 2-1 on Allie Ingham's 67th minute game-winner.
Who to watch: Barrington's Molly Pfeiffer (Sr., MF-F, 8g, 9a), Jenna Szczesny (So., F, 17g), Mia Calamari (Jr., MF, 4g 8 a), Hannah Luedtke (So., GK, 0.33, 9.5), Emily Morin (Sr., D), Aimee Pierce (Sr., MF-D). Buffalo Grove's Kelli Zickert (Jr, F, 25, 7a), Colleen Zickert (Jr, MF, 7g, 6a), Jessica Kovach (So, MF, 3g, 6a), Skylar Groth (Jr, MF, 5g, 6a), JayJay Lowery (Sr, D), Shannon O'Connor (Jr, GK, 0.48, 10.5).
Barrington update: A league title seemed like it might not be in the cards after a stretch which saw the Fillies' slump while division rival Conant stayed unbeaten, including netting a 0-0 draw with the MSL West champs. But when the final table was published, there stood Barrington, advancing to its second straight championship match and third in the last four years. "We couldn't finish during that stretch, and that put a lot of extra pressure on the way we played during that time," said Broncos coach Ryan Stengren. The Fillies seemed to have found their form of late and have quietly gone 8-1-0 since its loss at Buffalo Grove on April 15. Injuries to top defender Emily Morin forced Stengren to move Aimee Pierce to the backline, but Morin's expected return this week only enhances an already deep and talented roster. With each match, Calamari has become more influential, as has Szczesny, one of the more dangerous finishers in the area during a breakout sophomore campaign. All-state midfielder Molly Pfeiffer has been asked by Stengren to do more than ever before -- defend, create from behind the frontline, hold, and score. And she's done it all, at a much higher level than most. The back line is steady and quick to the ball, and the growth of young GK Hannah Luedtke has been a wonderful thing to watch for Stengren. "I really like this team a lot," he said. "They work hard, play well together, and care about each other. They are just a great team to be around each and every day."
Buffalo Grove update: Pat Dudle has been saying right from the start this is a special group, and with good reason. Nearly everyone is back from a cast which took eventual fourth-place state medalist Glenbrook South to the brink in the sectionals last season. "Nobody cares who gets the goals, and when, and they share the ball so well," says Dudle. "There's chemistry when they play, and away from the game as well. That's why they're so special." Even after a 1-0 loss in its regular-season finale against Conant, the Bison remained at the top of the MSL table for the year. This battled-test club has already won the Lake Park and Pepsi Showdown tournaments, and can unleash a lethal attack from so different ways. The Zickert twins are a dominant force for sure, but the 1-2 punch from the midfield duo of Groth and Kovach might be the key to the Bison enjoying so much of the run of play. Carly Brown and Kim Herzog are each speedy outside mids who serve, create and defend. Whether in the starting lineup or super-subs for the day, Sara Busse and Allie Ingham (each with 8 goals, 7 assists) give the Bison extra scoring power and a physical presence when brought on. A partially rebuilt backline has been steady, but perhap the biggest surprise this spring has been the play of the rookie goalkeeper Sarah O'Connor, a converted field player whose athletism has led to extraordinary saves. "Our strength, obviously, has been in our attack and ability to score goals," said Dudle. "But our back line as a unit has given us a physical presence, and pace, which makes them all valuable pieces for the team."
Ryan Stengren (6th year, 103-29-10): "You don't always get a second chance, so our girls are very anxious for this rematch tonight. Buffalo Grove has lived up to its preseason expectations in a big way. They are the No. 9 rated team in the country, and No. 2 here in Illinois, so you've got to give them credit for all of that as well. Pat has done a great job with them, and they have a lot of good attacking players and can get numbers forward in a hurry. The first time out, we had some very good chances, but they were much more efficient in the few they created, and that is what this game is all about."
Pat Dudle (6th year, 66-54-11): "Barrington has two great scorers in No. 11 (Jenna Szczesny) and No. 10 (Molly Pfeiffer), so we've got to keep an eye on both of them, of course. But they've got talent all over the place, and that's the reason they are in this game, and last year's also. The first meeting was a very good one, even in the pouring rain, and I expect nothing less tonight. The girls are upset after losing our first of the season last Saturday, and maybe that's exactly what this team needed to give them that extra edge just before this game, and the playoffs."
-- Mike Garofola