Buffalo Grove soccer ends year the right way

BUFFALO GROVE — The Buffalo Grove boys soccer team accomplished something remarkable in 2013 — as the No. 15 seed, the Bison won the Class 3A Palatine Regional.

Friday, Buffalo Grove’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Barrington in the final of the Mundelein Sectional. If there is a moment that acted as a catalyst to propel the Bison to their four-win postseason, it came on Sept. 26.

Buffalo Grove dropped a 5-0 decision to Rolling Meadows that night. It was the seventh time in eight games that the Bison had either tied or lost. The season was spiraling down a hole of underachievement and disappointment.

“Our coach (Rick Carlson) pulled us aside (after the game) and said, ‘You guys have to make a change,’ ” junior forward Zach Masciopinto said. “We were like, ‘What are we going to do?’ ”

Masciopinto, along with the two other Bison captains, seniors Allan Santiaguillo and Daniel Ramirez, huddled together after meeting with Carlson. They agreed with their coach. Things had to change right away.

At practice the next day, the captains established the new culture.

“In possession drills, we got into each other. We just started practicing harder, with more of an edge,” Masciopinto said.

The results didn’t show up on the field right away. Buffalo Grove went winless in its next five games. But a 2-1 win over Palatine in its final regular season match Oct. 15 proved telling. The Bison wore their underwhelming No. 15 seed as a chip for the postseason.

“We were in every game we played. We just hadn’t been lucky,” Ramirez said. “We needed to finish.”

Carlson added, “I know we were seeded lower and that’s fine. But that didn’t factor with us at all. We came out to win. We thought we could win.”

And the Bison did, starting with a 3-0 victory over Zion-Benton in the regional quarterfinals Oct. 18. Four days later, Buffalo Grove knocked off defending state champion Warren 1-0. Masciopinto said that game was the culmination of the hours of practice time since the loss to Rolling Meadows.

“We came in with (the attitude), ‘We don’t want to lose,’ ” Masciopinto said. “You have to have a little swag, and we did.”

A 2-1 victory over Palatine in the regional final Oct. 25 was followed by a sectional semifinal win by the same score over Carmel Oct. 29.

On Friday, in the sectional final against Barrington, Buffalo Grove’s charmed run appeared to get another chapter. Masciopinto gave the Bison a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute when he netted a re-direct from Ramirez.

“That was a great ball by Daniel. Our guys created that with good movement and contact. We pushed it at the end,” Carlson said.

But one goal wasn’t enough against the No. 1-seeded Broncos. Barrington tallied three unanswered goals the rest of the way.

The Bison may have ended their season short of the school’s first sectional championship since 2004, but they closed out 2013 knowing they were playing their best soccer.

“In the beginning of the season, we were tying and losing with nothing to show for it,” Masciopinto said. “Now we do.”

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