Coach: Pat Dudle
Shannon Guercio Sr., D
Sarah O’Connor So., GK/M
Jessica Kovach So., M
Skylar Groth Jr., M
Sara Brawley Jr., D
Kim Herzog Jr., M
Colleen Zickert Jr., M
Kelli Zickert Jr., M
Megan Gardner Jr., F
Kelly VandeMerkt Sr., D
Carly Brown Sr., M
JayJay Lowery Sr., D
Kirsten Erickson Sr., GK
Elizabeth Chan Jr., D
Sara Busse So., F
Jessica Ahumada So., M
Allie Ingham Jr., F

Bison headed to the Final Four
By Mike Garofola

All season-long, when asked by reporters to best describe his club, Pat Dudle’s simple reply was that he had a very special group.

The Buffalo Grove manager not only has a very special group but also one which now is heading to the state tournament.

While lighting was striking the area at other supersectionals, the Bison (25-2-1) were proving to be much more dangerous than Mother Nature, scoring twice after intermission while keeping Loyola (23-3-1) under wraps to record a 2-0 victory to capture the Class 3A Glenbrook South Supersectional crown.

The richly-deserved victory Tuesday night sends the Bison downstate for the first time since the 1994-95 season. The Bison will play Friday at North Central College against defending champ Naperville North (20-0-2) in a 5:00 p.m. semifinal in downtown Naperville.

"From that first win of the season, I think we all felt this could happen for us, and now that it's here, it's still kind of like a dream," said Bison junior Kelli Zickert, who led with her golden scoring boots but still had to take a back seat to the real heroes on the night -- the Bison backline.

"When we watched film we always seemed to circle No. 14 (Devin Burns) and No. 8 (Tori Iatarola)," began Dudle.

"(Burns) is obviously is their big scorer (35 goals) and (Iatarola) was their playmaker. We had to slow (Burns) up top and keep the ball away from their playmaker in the middle if we wanted to be successful tonight, and (Jessica) Kovach and Kelly (VandeMerkt) did just that, all night long.

"I felt (Kovach) and I went out and did the job we were asked to do,” VandeMerkt said, “but JayJay (Lowery), Shannon Guercio and Sara (Brawley) were right there with us, winning balls, tackling, and really never allowing (Loyola) to be very dangerous."

The freshman Burns rarely had a sniff on frame for the nearly the 75 minutes of work she put in, while the junior Iatarola was taken out of sync by the high work rate and pace of Kelli and Colleen Zickert, Kovach, Skylar Groth, Kim Herzog and Allie Ingham, who all logged time in the middle of the park, and never stopped running or defending yet quickly turned around to jumpstart the Bison attack.

"That's what I am most proud of is the way we got back, and defended and tackled,” Zickert said. “They never got much going from out of the middle.”

It was wide-open and fast-paced from the opening whistle, and the Bison attack was up and running at full speed, forcing the Loyola backline to defend much more than it would have liked. Loyola defensive mid Elle Zadina making several quality tackles in front of her teammates to slow what could have been some troublesome advances from Buffalo Grove.

Shannon Powers found Devin Burns in the 13th minute but after some nifty work to get free, the freshman striker sprayed her first shot of the night wide of Bison keeper Sarah O'Connor.

Iatarola used a strong wind to send a nice ball over the top to Loyola freshman Kathryn Cichon, but the athletic O'Connor used a quick first-step and never hesitated on her run off the line, taking the ball away from the Ramblers’ striker in a 50-50 challenge.

"Sarah wasn't tested much all night, but she is just so good back there for us," Lowery said.

While the Bison were enjoying the bulk of the run of play during the first half hour, they didn't seem to pose much menace as they advanced into the final third, until Megan Gardner -- who took on more minutes tonight in the absence of Sara Busse -- roared up the right side to deliver a nice shot that Loyola keeper Brittany San Roman saved.

Busse suffered a knee injury in Friday’s sectional title win over Hersey and will be out for the rest of the postseason.

Kelli Zickert turned and got free in close, and if not for a sharp tackle from Loyola’s Jill Stevens, the scoring star would have been in on San Roman.

Moments later, Ingham went over the woodwork from 22 yards and then would steer her 40th-minute attempt wide to close out the first period.

"It was a good first half of soccer, especially with us going into the wind, and although we didn't put one in, I felt the girls were playing with confidence and (had) to feel pretty good about what they had done in those 40 minutes against a quality opponent," said Dudle.

The Bison were out of the blocks quickly following intermission, constructing quality passes from the outset while growing in rhythm and assurance with each touch.

BG’s break would come when Kelli Zickert redirected a searing header past San Roman when she ran onto a Kovach freekick serve that shredded the Loyola defense.

The 46th minute goal would be all the Bison would need, as it was clear by then that they were the better team on this warm, windy night in Glenview.

"We just didn't come out with the type of energy and emotion that we did last Friday in our sectional final with New Trier," said disappointed Loyola coach Craig Snower.

The Bison continued to assert themselves after Zickert struck, pouring forward when opportunities presented themselves while showing a remarkable ability to defend from box-to-box and never allowing Burns and company to create another serious shot on frame.

Snower pushed all-state sweeper Cory Burns up front to give the Ramblers three across the top, but the Bison defense was as sturdy as they come on this night.

"We have so much confidence in our backline and team defense, and I really felt like we made it really difficult for Loyola to get much of anything going," said Kelli Zickert.

The Bison's leading scorer sealed the fate of the Ramblers when she fought her way through a pair of defenders to win a ball and send it under a diving San Roman in the 79th minute, starting the celebration among Bison fans in the stands.

"Kelli is just a warrior. I don't know how she got that ball but it was a perfect ending for her and our team," said Dudle.

"I don't even care that it's prom this weekend, because I know where I am going to be," added Lowery, who along with Guercio, Brawley and O'Connor have conceded just 12 goals on the season, while recording 17 clean sheets.

"This has been our goal all season long, but there's more ahead of us," said Zickert.


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