Under the bright lights at center stage, Molly Pfeiffer helped Barrington steal the show Wednesday night in the 24th annual MSL Soccer Cup.
The Fillies senior had a hand in both goals while turning in a commanding 80-minute effort to lift Barrington to an impressive 2-0 victory over Buffalo Grove. It's the Fillies' second consecutive conference title and third in four seasons.
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"Molly put her stamp on the game tonight, and did what a four-year senior, captain and all-state player is asked to do in a big game like this -- to show she is truly one of the best in the state," said Barrington coach Ryan Stengren after watching his club lift the sixth Cup in program history.
"Molly played like she was possessed tonight, and especially in the second half when (Barrington) just wouldn't let us play the way we wanted to play," said Buffalo Grove coach Pat Dudle, whose club, after starting 20-0-1, has dropped two straight to end its regular season.
Barrington seemed rattled in the opening stages, as Buffalo Grove treated a big crowd to its powerhouse attacking skills while carving out a few scoring chances to help put the Fillies (13-4-1) on edge from the opening whistle.
"That first half was not very good for us," said Barrington senior Aimee Pierce, who along with Pfeiffer and the injured Emily Morin have been part of all three Fillies championship clubs. "But we weathered the storm pretty well in the first half and came out to play one of our best halves of the season after that."
The creatvity and dogged persistence of Skylar Groth, Kelli Zickert, Sara Busse and Allie Ingham helped keep the Fillies under pressure. Groth had the best chance to beat keeper Hannah Luedtke when a neat little chip from Busse put her through.
"We did everything really well in the first half -- except finish," said Groth, who before the game was honored as the MSL East's player of the year. "And after (Barrington) put that first goal in we kind of got out of synch, and we lost whatever we had been doing so well."
Pfeiffer, crashing in on a beautiful curling corner from Mia Calamari, thumped her header into the far corner to give the Fillies a 1-0 advantage just after the half-hour. That seemed to signal a strong finish for the MSL West champs, who were beginning to find their form as intermission drew closer.
After the break, it was too much Pfeiffer and leading scorer Jenna Szczesny, who found another gear to help inspire the Fillies' overall effort.
"Our defense really stepped it up in the second half, and didn't allow them anything dangerous at Hannah, and on the other end, we just kept the pressure up until that second goal," said Pierce.
Bison keeper Sarah O'Connor made two marvelous point-blank saves on Szczesny, but the sophomore could do nothing when reserve Katie Hoots' guided her 16-yarder into the back of the net at 67 minutes. Pfeiffer created the chance with a brilliant run up the left side and equally sensational serve.
"This is one of those nights that will likely sink in later, maybe when we play our last game together this season," said Pfeiffer. "But for right now, it feels great to win our second championship in a row, and to be a part of a team like we have."