Austin Grzebieniak and Shawn Owen scored four minutes apart in the first half to help take top-seed Barrington into the sectional semifinals with a convincing 2-0 victory over No. 8 Libertyville in regional final at Barrington Community Park on Saturday.
The Broncos (17-3-4) will now face Lake Forest (13-6-1), which defeated Hersey 2-1 in overtime Saturday afternoon, in a Mundelein sectional semifinal.
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"This was a really good win," said ecstatic Barringotn coach Scott Steib. "When we initially saw the draw, I was worried about possibly facing Libertyville, and when we watched them the other night against Stevenson, both Lloyd Chatfield and Nick Vogel up top made me even more nervous.
"But except for a really poor start tonight, I thought we did a good job against both of those guys, and once we got ourselves settled in, we pretty much dominated the play leading up to, and after we scored, to get ourselves a big win."
The Broncos survived their nervous opening, leaning on its airtight back line, led by Tyler Anderson.
Slowly getting a grip on their game, and on the front foot, the Broncos took their lead from senior Connor Hennelly, who ran the show with tremendous pace and composure in the middle of the park.
"We never really got ourselves going, and we especially had our trouble in the midfield, where (Barrington) never let us possess much at all," said longtime Libertyville coach Andy Bitta, whose club battled one injury after another its 9-6-1 campaign. "Maybe all of our injuries finally caught up to us, but in the end we were beaten by the better team tonight. Scott and his boys deserved to move on."
The home side started to produce the flowing football it had hoped for in order to counter the dangerous duo of Chatfield and Vogel. From the 25th minute, it was all Barrington until intermission.
Anderson would initiate the Grzebieniak goal with a freekick from near the midline.
After a short clearing attempt by the Wildcats kept the ball in the area, both Anderson and Hennelly kept the action near the edge.
Grzebieniak used his body to shield a defender to find enough space to drive his close range shot past Cats keeper Alec Schory.
"That was just an amazing effort from Austin to put us ahead," said Hennelly after the match.
Shawn Owen put a dagger in the hearts of the Wildcats' faithful when he steered in a sitter in front of Schory. An inward swinging corner by Jamie Tausend stayed in the mix when Giles Phillips elevated high about the rest to flick the serve into the box.
"We've been spending a lot of time on set pieces of late, because in the postseason it can be the difference-maker," Hennelly said.
Bitta went back to a 4-4-2 after the break in hopes of cutting into the 2-goal advantage the Broncos had built.
However, except for a pair of strikes from Chatfield on frame and into the gloves of keeper Pat Deroche, and a free kick attempt driven through the wall and straight to Deroche from Vogel in the 53rd minute, the Wildcats were unable to generate anything of quality.
"These final games of the season are always tough, especially when you have to say goodbye to a player like (Lloyd) whose been with me all four years," Bitta said. "He is like a son to me.
"We could have played better tonight, but again, we lost to a team that is playing real well, and sometimes that is just the way it goes."