Girls soccer: Scouting BG vs. Barrington in the MSL Soccer Bowl
28th MSL Soccer Bowl
Barrington (20-1-0) at Buffalo Grove (6-5-1)Where: Grant Blaney Stadium, Buffalo Grove High School
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
History lesson: In another undefeated regular season in the Mid-Suburban League, Barringotn has also enjoyed stellar results away from league play, winning the prestigious Naperville Invite over then-No. 1 Naperville North, two weeks after losing its first of the year to the Huskies in the final of the inaugural North Shore Invite.
"(That), along with advancing into this game was a terrific accomplishment, and something the girls should be proud of, but they know the work isn't over after tonight," says Fillies coach Ryan Stengren.
Barrington is here for an MSL-best 12th time.
"It's all kind of surreal to think Barrington has been in this game six straight times, four for a lot of us, but we've all been working really hard, and there's almost no time to think about what we've done," said Barrington senior Jackie Batliner. "So our focus is only about preparing for Buffalo Grove, and getting better each time we go out."
It wasn't long ago that the Bison were considered one of the best teams in the state, attacking with relentless force. Unfortunately for Buffalo Grove, it kept running into equally strong Barrington teams at the end of the season.
This year, the Bison made all six of their wins in the league count after going winless away from the MSL. An impressive and well-timed stretch place them clear of Prospect in closing the division out to earn a second consecutive trip to the Soccer Bowl and the fifth in program history.
"Our start to the season was bleak, but the seniors did a terrific job of keeping the team together and keeping training sessions filled with purpose, while playing with enthusiasm during our games," said BG coach Pat Dudle.
"We are really young," said Buffalo Grove senior Georgette Topalis, "so the seniors helped the others keep it together, and that, along with just working harder and getting a few wins, made a big difference in our success."
Who to watch: Barrington -- Jackie Batliner (Sr., D, 8g), Haley Tausend (Sr., D), Kayla Keck (Sr., D), Samantha Schmitz (Sr., GK, 0.26, 15 shutouts), Sophia Spinell (Sr., MF, 10g,19a), Ashley Prell (F-MF, 10g), Anna Brodjian (F-MF, 11g), Ellie Stodola (MF-F). Buffalo Grove -- Georgette Topalis (F-MF, 11g), Courtney Lee (Sr., MF), Danielle Allaire (Sr., D), Hannah Cole (Sr., F), Alyssa Floro (Jr., MF, 4g), Macy Floro (Fr., F, 3g), Brittany Lee (Sr., D).
Barrington at a glance: The Fillies' current group of seniors has enjoyed a magnificent run toward the program's sixth consecutive appearance in the MSL Soccer Bowl.
"Many of us have been together for a long time, all working toward the same goal, but there's been a lot of improvement from last year to this year, plus we have some really good young players who have stepped in to make their contributions to the team," said Batliner, an all-state defender last year.
The two-time MSL West player of the year has been part of an all-star backline cast which features veteran standouts Haley Tausend and Kayla Keck, in addition to Madi Simon, who has stepped in on the outside left as if she had been in place just as long as her teammates.
"The three of us took Madi under our wing, and she been so consistent, even though coming from the JV team a year ago is such a big step for a player," said Batliner.
That terrific back line, in front of superb keeper Samantha Schmitz, has conceded 6 goals all season and just 1 in the league as Barrington finished 11-0-0 in the MSL.
"The work ethic with this group is outstanding, and our younger players have followed right along as well," said Stengren.
Stengren has relied on a terrific midfield unit featuring the Fillies' second all-stater from a year ago, Sophia Spinell. Her runs into the box and ability to provide quality service in free kicks has led to a double-digit season in assists.
Michayla Kerr is a defensive wizard, while Ellie Stodola is equally versatile in the middle or up top, and Lauren Caffe and Sydney Bowling have flourished in higher-profile roles in their second varsity seasons.
Sophomore Ashley Prell has had a breakout season as one of the Fillies' forwards. And senior Anna Brodjian, who missed time early on due to off-season surgery, has scored her share of big goals since coming back.
Buffalo Grove at a glance: Bison captains Courtney Lee and Georgette Topalis didn't worry when the club went winless in its first seven games of the year, both knowing the old sports adage: it's not how you start, but how you finish.
"We had a terrible start to the year, but Georgette and I knew we could be a good team -- but we also knew it might take some time for all of that to happen," said Lee, who will play next fall at Carthage College in Kenosha.
"It all came together right when we needed it to, beginning with a big win over Prospect (2-1) which really gave us a real confidence boost," said the Winona-State bound Topalis.
The win against Prospect came as part of a six-game unbeaten streak during which the Bison earned 16 points (they drew with Hersey), highlighted by a win over Palatine, the lone MSL loss of the season for the Pirates at the time.
Lee's all-around play gives the Bison a steady presence in the middle of the park, while the four-veteran veteran Topalis has an array of skills, functioning equally well as an attacking midfielder or as a scoring threat up top.
"Georgette and Courtney make this team go, but we've come to count on Danielle Allaire for her leadership along the back, and Kendra (Le), who is a calming presence as a freshman," says Dudle.
Alyssa Floro scored some big goals in the MSL to help drive the Bison toward their MSL East title, while Macy Floro's pace has helped stretch opponents' defense.
Hannah Cole, back after overcoming two injury-filled years, partners with Courtney Lee in the middle, while her sister Brittany helps anchor the backline.
They said itRyan Stengren (10th year, 196-41-17): "Way back at the end of last October, the girls came to me and said they needed to know what they all needed to do to get better in order to make them be the best they could be. They started right away, on their own, proving they are a very special group."
Pat Dudle (10th year, 119-80-21): "We're honored to be playing in this game, and we'll give our best effort against an excellent Barrington club. There's great character on this team, and I know the girls are looking forward to this night and are excited to be a part of it."
-- Mike Garofola