Butler sophomore forward Paige Achey scored a pair of second-half goals to lift the 14th-ranked Grizzlies to a 2-0 Region VI semifinal win over Cloud County on Saturday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
The semifinal victory advances Butler to the NJCAA Plains District Championships, which begins on Friday in Cleburne, Texas.
In a physical contest, the Grizzlies (16-4-0 overall) recorded a second consecutive postseason shutout while shutting out a Cloud County squad that averaged 5.8 goals per game during the season.
"I think our defensive effort was fantastic," said Butler head coach Adam Hunter. "It started with our backline being very solid in the air and our midfield was exceptional defensively tonight. Our forwards tracked and tried to take some of the long balls away from Cloud. It was probably one of our better defensive efforts, for sure.
"We knew Cloud was going to be a team that was going to be physical," Hunter said. "We created some chances in the first half and weren't able to put them away, but we regrouped at halftime."
Achey broke the scoreless tie in the 51st minute when Kaylee Swanson sent a ball near the middle of the offensive side, with the ball trickling off a Cloud defender near the top of the 18-yard box. Achey snuck in between two T-Bird defenders to win the loose ball, then beat Cloud keeper Chelsea Cordice with a left-footed shot from 15 yards out into the upper left-corner of the net.
Achey followed up with an insurance goal in the 68th minute after getting behind the T-Bird defense on a pass from Caro Limon. Elise Leidersten set up the goal with a back pass near midfield to Limon, who one-touched the ball forward in front of Achey. With Cloud's Cordice coming out of the box to challenge the pass, Achey won the battle to the ball and tapped it in from 15 yards out into the center of the goal.
"I had a great pass in and barely got there," said Achey, who has now scored three of Butler's seven goals in two postseason games. "I just toe-poked it past the keeper, it went in and we just celebrated after that."
"Paige didn't get a lot of opportunities tonight, but she made the absolute most of them," said Hunter. "Paige did what Paige does and that is score goals."
Butler goalkeeper Bethany Reeves picked up her 16th win over the season, making two saves and getting her second complete-game shutout of the season. The Grizzlies outshot Cloud by a 13-7 margin and doubled up the T-Birds 4-2 on corner kicks.
The Grizzlies will now be one of four teams at districts fighting for an automatic bid to the NJCAA National Tournament, which will be held in Foley, Ala., on Nov. 12-17. Butler will open with a district semifinal match against the Region II winner (Seminole State, Okla., or Rose State, Okla.), which will be played on Friday. In the other semifinal, Region V winner Hill (Texas) will battle Barton in the other semifinal. Barton defeated Johnson County 2-1 in Saturday's other Region VI semifinal to advance to district play. Times for both district games have yet to be announced.
NOTES: Butler improved to 17-1-0 all-time against Cloud County... The Grizzlies are now 33-9-0 in Region VI playoff games and remain undefeated with a 15-0-0 record in home playoff games... After going the first eight games without a goal, Achey has scored 19 goals in Butler's last 12 games. Achey has scored two or more goals in five games this season.