There are just eight teams left in the Class 3A girls soccer state tournament -- and Buffalo Grove is one of them.
The Bison came away with a convincing 3-0 victory over Hersey on Friday night to capture the Mundelein sectional championship.
Contact information ( * required )
They are now one win away from advancing into the state finals, which will be held next weekend at North Central College in Naperville.
Next up for Pat Dudle's club is the Glenbrook South supersectional on Tuesday against Loyola, which defeated its crosstown rival New Trier 1-0 on Friday. Game time is 6 p.m.
"We were looking online to find out the last time (Buffalo Grove) won a sectional title, and when we found out it was 1995, we all wanted to be the first time to do so since then," said junior Skylar Groth, after her teammates lifted the trophy, much to the approval of the Bison fans on hand.
"We've had high expectations right from the start of the season," said Dudle, "but even with that, we came into tonight not taking anything for granted -- and especially against a team like Hersey, which gave us a tough go for a long time before we put a couple in and opened up the game."
In the season opener, the Bison (24-2-1) pounded their division rival 5-0 but it was clear on Friday the Huskies (14-5-5) and coach Brad Abel had no plans for a repeat performance in the biggest match of the season for his club.
"Buffalo Grove is a very talented team, but I don't think we ever felt they were (5-0) better than us," Abel said. "But with that said, we were still wary of their ability to attack, so we set out to disrupt the middle as much as we could and to try to take away their possession game, which is so good."
This tactical approach worked in the early stages, even after sophomore Sara Busse broke through to head Kelli Zickert's helper into the back of the net at eight minutes.
Busse left and did not return after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. But the depth of the Bison made helped make her loss a little easier to swallow.
BG keeper Sarah O'Connor sent a long-range free kick from Lauren Gierman around the post at 20 minutes -- and then thanked the right post for sending Kaitlyn Smetana's smash out of danger instead of into the net 10 minutes later.
"Even giving up that first goal, I thought we had the better of the chances in that first half, and who knows what might have happened if we finished one of them, especially that early chance just after the break," Abel said.
It was Gierman this time who found the far corner on a wicked free kick from the touchline in the 42nd minute.
But that would be the last of the dangerous opportunities for the Huskies.
"Gierman is one of the premier dead-ball players around, and we were very aware of what she could do," Groth said.
The precision possession soccer the Bison have been come to be known for -- which had been a missing an ingredient for nearly an hour -- came alive in the 58th minute.
That's when Kelli Zickert doubled the lead after an Allie Ingham helped her drive home a 14-yard shot just out of the reach of keeper Morgan Harris, who came very close in full extension.
Ingham put the match out of reach for good at 70 minutes when Groth slipped a lovely cross onto the foot of the junior.
"We knew that first-game result was just that," said Ingham, "but we also wanted to show we were the better team this time around too, and especially in a game for the sectional title."