Defending tournament champion Buffalo Grove grinded out a 1-1 draw with Downers Grove North on Thursday afternoon as pool play began at the 23rd Norm Hillner Invite at Lake Park.
Bison senior Pat Tucharski brought Buffalo Grove (0-1-1) even just seconds after the Trojans (0-1-1) took the lead on a PK. Then BG did all it could to break the deadlock the rest of the way, only to fall short.
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"We're two-time champs, so it was important that we show up and play hard in order to give ourselves a chance to win a third straight title," said junior Zach Masciopinto, who along with seniors Allan Santiaguillo and Daniel Ramirez are the three key figures back from the the 2012 MSL East Division champion club.
"It's such a new team," said BG coach Rick Carlson, "with so many first-time players on the varsity, so we'll lean on Zach, Allan and Daniel for awhile until we sort things out and get some of the guys familiar with playing at this level."
BG dropped its season opener 3-2 to Waukegan on Monday.
"We were down 2-0 in that game, and got one back, and gave up a late goal," Carlson said. "But we looked and played like a team that had a lot of new guys out there for the first time."
Just after intermission, Downers North senior Andrew Zea was hauled down in the box, and moments later, teammate Jake Stevenson converted his spot kick to give the Trojans a 1-0 advantage at 46 minutes.
However, off the whistle, Tucharski unloaded a right-footed blast that found the far corner, and suddenly the Bison were back in it.
The goal opened up a tightly played match, which saw more ferocity in 50-50 tackles, as well as several good chances, including a quality opportunity by Drew Brauner on some nice combination work from Masciopinto and Hector Herrera. On the best chance the period, Downers North keeper Ray Greco stopped Masciopinto at point-blank range.
"I thought we responded really well after their PK, and had a lot of the run of play the rest of the way, and that's all good," said Masciopinto.
"This was such a much better effort and result after getting rocked in our opener (7-1) to Benet," said Downers North coach Brian Gervese. "The effort and work rate were much improved. We corrected a lot of mistakes from the other day, and we created some good chances along the way as well."
Next up for the Trojans will be Conant (1-1-0) on Saturday. The Cougars defeated York 3-0 in their tournament opener Thursday. Buffalo Grove next faces York (0-1-0).