Buffalo Grove coach Pat Dudle called it "simple soccer," but Naperville North's game-winning goal at Friday's Class 3A semifinals must have been hard for the Bison to watch.
Meghan Lee's goal in the 67th minute broke a scoreless tie at North Central College in Naperville, and the defending state champion Huskies advanced to the championship game for a third consecutive season with a 2-0 victory. The Huskies will meet Hinsdale Central at 7 p.m. Saturday. Buffalo Grove will play Barrington at 5 p.m. in the third-place game.
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After Buffalo Grove cleared a Naperville North throw-in back to the Huskies' Cora Climo, Climo sent in a cross that Lee headed off the crossbar from 4 yards out. The rebound bounced right back to her, and she slotted it into the net with her right foot.
"They made a great play," Dudle said. "It was simple soccer. Knocked it back to the person who threw it in. It was great service and great initial head ball and disciplined play and they put it in the back of the net."
"Cora just had a perfect ball, which she consistently does, and I was lucky to get on the end of it," Lee said. "(Huskies coach Steve) Goletz, he kept telling us outside mids to be even with the ball, and I saw as Cora was going down line that I should be up there too."
It was a matter of practice paying off for the Huskies.
"We worked all week on keeping our outside mids even on the weak side, and the ball comes across and Meghan Lee's exactly where she needs to be," Goletz added. "Gets the first header on goal, which is great, and then to have the composure to be able to turn and find it and slot it away. Meghan's a very, very technical player and someone who's had a great season for us, and I'm super, super happy that she was able to finish that goal."
Composure on the ball and experience in big-game situations was key.
"It was just such a split second that I didn't really have time to think, but I was just so focused that I had to get the ball in the goal," Lee said. "We had to change the momentum of the game."
Sophomore Abbie Boswell gave the Huskies breathing room just two minutes later when she dribbled 20 yards toward goal and finished from 8 yards out for a 2-0 Huskies lead.
Until Lee's goal the game had been dominated by each team's back lines.
"We just couldn't figure out how to get behind the back, and that was real trouble for us," said Bison junior Kelli Zickert, who has 31 goals this season. "We couldn't find feet, and we weren't playing the way we should have."
"I thought they were absorbing so much defensively sometimes I thought we could've turned with the ball and faced up, been a little more patient," Dudle added. "They're solid defensively, they put numbers behind the ball and they're just waiting for that one chance. They're solid at every position on the field."
The Bison's best scoring chance came in the 71st minute when junior Allie Ingham hit the left post with a shot. Huskies sophomore goalkeeper Fiona Baenziger was credited with 8 saves, and she seemed to be perfectly positioned on all of them.
"Fiona's been solid all year, and Fiona read the game well today," Goletz said. "We were fortunate at times that some of the balls that they did play wound up right at her, but our back four did a very good job of staying compact, keeping them in front and limiting their chances."
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