Buffalo Grove was an attacking machine on Tuesday, seeing off postseason rival Glenbrook South 3-1 to advance to face Mid-Suburban League divisional foe Hersey this Friday in the Class 3A Mundelein sectional final.
The No. 1 seed Bison (23-2-1) dominated from the opening whistle with clinical style to put the No. 5 Titans (20-5-1) on the back foot.
"Buffalo Grove is as good as it's advertised," said Glenbrook South coach Seong Ha, who last season bounced the Bison from the postseason after having BG ends its own hopes in PK's in 2011.
"With them having the wind at their backs in the first half, we had hoped to keep it close going into the break, and even when it was 2-0 at the half, I felt we had a chance," Ha added. "But that third goal really did us in, and today the better team would come out on top."
The Bison poured forward from the very beginning, playing fast and consistently testing the Titans' back line.
Buffalo Grove forced Ha to move his all-state striker, April Cronin, back into the middle to defend in hopes of slowing a rampant BG attack.
"That first 15 minutes was so strong for us, and even though we got away from what we had been doing for a little bit, we found our game again and never really let up on them," said Colleen Zickert, who along with Skylar Groth, Jessica Kovach and Allie Ingham had far too much pace and energy for the Titans during the first quarter-hour.
Although they spent most of the first 20 minutes in the Titans' end, the Bison still had not solved keeper Emma Sailer until Ingham's serve to the 6 spilled free to an open Kovach, who steered her right-footer into the far corner.
Playing with the lead now, the Bison made the Titans' task even harder, and some wonderful combination work by Kelli and Colleen Zickert gave way to Colleen driving her low strike the other way to double the lead at 35 minutes.
"Protecting a 2-0 lead is a scary thing to do in soccer, so when we got that third goal, I think all of us relaxed a little, and just concentrated on managing the lead," said Colleen Zickert.
Her sister Kelli found herself in on Sailer just five minutes into the second period after Kovach put her through. And Kelli Zickert converted, sweeping her shot into the back of the net.
Bison defenders Shannon Guercio, Sara Brawley and JayJay Lowery were stout throughout. But the unit could do nothing about Cronin scoring her 34th and final goal of the season, a just reward for the four-year Valparaiso-bound Titans captain, who was brilliant even in defeat.
"I am so happy that April scored in her last game for us," Ha said. "She deserved it, and I am equally proud of the other seniors who were done playing for me tonight," Ha said. "Pat (Dudle) has a wonderful team and they were the better team tonight."
"I appreciate what Seong said, and I feel we were ready for them tonight," Dudle said. "And especially (Cronin) and our overall effort was very good, and with this one behind us, now we turn our focus to Friday."