Boys soccer: Buffalo Grove wins first MSL title in 30 years
On a historic night at Grant Blaney Stadium Buffalo Grove's boys soccer team became champions of the Mid-Suburban League for the first time in 30 years after its 2-0 victory over Fremd in the 42nd annual MSL Soccer Cup.
Given the stage to continue what has been memorable performances all throughout the regular season Kevin Eloiza and Jon Peici would shine brightly when called upon with each scoring on either side of the half to lift the big trophy before a jubilant home crowd.
"We all knew the last time we won a conference championship was back in 1988 so that's something we really wanted to do for ourselves, and coach (Darren) Llewellyn, who's just a great coach," said Eloiza.
The longtime coach, who retired from teaching at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and took over the Bison program this fall couldn't help be proud of his club, who took to heart the tactical plan Llewellyn deployed to dash the hopes of the MSL West champion Vikings (11-5-1), who were looking for their eighth league title in program history.
"The better team won tonight," said a gracious Fremd head coach Steve Keller.
"There wasn't enough urgency in the way we played, nor enough purpose in the final third to create anything dangerous, and their No. 20 (Peici) was a real handful up top, and very impressive as well."
A cagey first half of soccer was finally pried open when Eloiza converted his 33rd minute spot kick to give the home side the lead at the break.
"I missed a PK in a shootout against Barrington last year, so it felt good to put one in tonight," said Eloiza, who at the intermission was named co/MSL East Player of the Year along with Wheeling star Jared Urueta.
The opening goal would finally bring the Vikings to life but it took Peici's 11th goal of the season in the 53rd minute to awaken the visitors once again.
"Our first 5-6 minutes were very good, but for some reason, our play fell off until their PK, and we never really got back on our front foot until they scored another one on us," admitted senior Connor Sapiente.
Peici, who played 80 minutes for the first time this season, doubled the Bison (15-4-1) lead when he latched onto an Alex Berk helper, and fired under keeper Artus Cholewa to further endear himself to the hometown faithful.
"Just like Kevin, I missed an easy chance last year in our loss in the MSL Soccer Cup to Barrington, so when (Alex) Berk gave me that great ball and the keeper came off his line there was no way I was going to miss my chance this time," said Peici, who scored just once a year ago for then head coach Brad Abel.
"Our back line was tremendous all night long, winning nearly every ball in the air, and just defending against a Fremd team that comes at you from the outside, runs hard at your back line, and targets their front-runners with balls into the box," said Llewellyn.
"I am really proud of those guys in the back, and the entire team for their heart, effort and energy they exhibited to win a well deserved conference championship."