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updated: 3/18/2014 10:15 PM

Buffalo Grove impresses in opener

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By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

Mid-Suburban League girls soccer powerhouse Buffalo Grove came out firing in the first half of its season opener against St. Viator on Tuesday night.

And when it was over, the Bison had made a major statement about their state ambitions after a 5-1 victory at Morris Field in Arlington Heights.

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The all-state duo of Kelli Zickert and Skylar Groth conjured up all sorts of trouble against the inexperienced home side.

The Lions had their share of troubles early on against an ultra-talented side which welcomed back nearly all of its starting lineup from its 2013 Class 3A fourth-place club.

"We had a few moments tonight, but that's a team that we'll likely playing in the final weekend of the season, and fighting for a state title when it's all said and done," said Lions coach Mike Taylor, who had just four seniors on his opening-day roster.

"Pat (Dudle, BG coach) has eight seniors in his lineup which went all the way to the final four of the state tournament. You can see the minute you let up just how valuable that experience really is because they make you pay for your mistakes dearly."

The Bison started in lively fashion with Sara Busse finding the back of the net at four minutes.

Teammate Allie Ingham also got into the action early as the senior redirected past keeper Sabina Raslawski after Kelli Zickert's free-kick blast went off the wall and into the area.

The opportunistic Ingham finished from close-in to double the Bison lead in the ninth minute.

"It's just a starting point tonight in what we hope will be a successful ending for us two months from now but there's a whole lot of work ahead of us to reach our goal of returning to the final four," said Dudle, who will need to replace key pieces along the back line this spring.

Zickert and Groth also said the Bison lost some important players in the back line, and they are aware of several new faces on the roster.

"So the biggest challenge for all of us is to find that chemistry that we had last season while helping to get our new players ready to play this year," they said in tandem.

The Illinois State-bound Zickert, who scored 31 goals last year, struck for her first this season at 33 minutes.

It came after newcomer Amanda Kowalski's splendid ball out of the back split the Lions midfield in half -- before finding Groth -- who quickly put Zickert through and in on Raslawski.

Things got worse for the Lions when Busse drove her second goal just six minutes from the intermission.

"We played like it was just our second time outdoors in that first half," Taylor said. "But I thought after the break, we played much better, and there were some very good things that I saw that we can build off of going forward."

The visitors increased their advantage five minutes into the second period when Zickert danced her way into the Lions' end.

She turned the defense inside-out to create enough time and space to put her strong low shot in from just inside the box.

Sophomore Lauren Kohn pulled one back for St. Viator when she converted her spot kick in the 56th minute after the center official witnessed a foul inside the box by the Bison.

"After getting to the state finals and being so close, all of us want to get back there," Groth said. "And we know what it will take to get there. But we also know we've got to play them one game at a time, in order to be there once again."

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