MELBOURNE, Fla. – The Butler soccer team has won its opening game in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament for the third straight year after defeating Cape Fear (NC) 3-0 on Monday at Eastern Florida State College.
Butler, seeded second in the national tournament, now will wait one day to play seventh-seeded Monroe College from New York on Wednesday. That will conclude pool play for both teams and will likely be the decisive match in the pool.
"I thought our kids played really well," Butler coach Adam Hunter said. "I thought we were definitely the aggressor from the first whistle all the way through the first half.
The Grizzlies (21-2-0 overall) got a goal early on as Colleen Howland got her head on a pass from Sam Simmons. The ball floated over the Cape Fear goalkeeper and into the back of the net, giving Butler a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. The goal was Howland's 30th on the season, which leads Butler on the season.
Despite putting heavy pressure on Cape Fear for the remainder of the half, the Grizzlies could not score again. Cape Fear's best chance at scoring came with 10 minutes into the first half, as the ball got behind keeper Jami Reichenberger, but was cleared away from goal by defender Holly Stewart after a second shot went off the left post.
Cape Fear pushed back against Butler early in the second half, but eventually Butler began to take control of the match. The Grizzlies broke through with a long-distance goal when Taylor Spencer got a pass from Lexi Clark and fired at the goal from 30 yards out, slotting the ball just under the crossbar in the 74th minute to make it 2-0.
Seven minutes later, Butler scored again when Clark slid a ball across the turf, splitting two defenders and ending up at the foot of a sliding Lauren Allen, who knocked the ball into the net.
"We played a really good team," Cape Fear coach Ryan Deppa said. "We knew that going in. Honestly, we did exactly what we wanted to. We missed an opportunity or two and they capitalized on the counter.
"That second goal was a pretty great goal. We obviously don't like to lose, but we lost to a good team and we respect them very much."
Butler has posted its sixth shutout in 14 national tournament games over the past six years, improving to 7-5-2 in tournament games.
"We've improved throughout the year and I think we just want to take it all, prove to everyone that we can do it," Howland said. "Butler's never won it. This could be the year."
NOTES: With the win, Butler extends its program record for consecutive wins at 21... Butler is now 4-1-1 overall in opening games at the NJCAA Tournament. The Grizzlies have won the last three opening pool play matches by shutout... Butler has posted 14 shutouts on the season, which ranks fourth all-time in program history for most shutouts in a season... Reichenberger recorded her fifth complete shutout on the season and her 23rd overall, which ranks first all-time for the Grizzlies.