TOPEKA, Kan. - The Butler soccer team is headed to the district tournament for the third time in program history after finishing as Region 6 tournament runner-up with a 1-0 loss to Hutchinson in the championship game on Sunday at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka. The Grizzlies had earned a spot in the championship game with a 1-0 win over Cloud County on Saturday.
Butler (17-3-1) will be in the district tournament based on its regular season Region 6 championship. Hutchinson will make the field as the Region 6 tournament championship and host the district event. Region 2 champion Laramie County (Wyo.) and Region 18 champion North Idaho also make up the field.
Butler will face North Idaho in a semifinal at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4. The Cardinals are 14-1-1 on the season. The two teams have had just one common opponent in Laramie County. Butler beat Laramie 1-0 early in the season while North Idaho defeated Laramie 2-0 in mid-October.
A recap of the two Region VI tournament matches follows.
Region VI Semifinals – Butler 1, Cloud 0
It was apparent from the opening whistle that Cloud intended to put 11 players between the Grizzlies and their goal. Their defensive plan was successful through 87 minutes of play. The Butler attack was continually thwarted by the Thunderbirds as they dug balls off the goal line and stepped up to block Butler's shots. Cloud goalkeeper Amber Petty had 15 saves to keep her team in the game.
Even though Butler dominated play, Cloud threatened to score late in the second half when it earned a corner kick. Despite not having not been tested throughout the game, Mel Nuessen (Emporia, KS) came up with a quick reaction dive that kept the Butler net clean. Fueled by Nuessen's efforts, Butler shifted the game to Cloud's half for the remaining minutes of the game. The Thunderbirds defensive efforts fell short with only minutes to play when Mari Ruvalcaba (Garden City, KS) found Carla Daniels (Jamaica) in the box. Daniels beat a defender then slipped the ball past Petty for the game-winning goal.
Region VI Championship – Hutchinson 1, Butler 0
Hutchinson defeated Johnson County 3-2 in the second semi-final game to set up a meeting of the two teams that shared the 2011 Jayhawk Conference championship with identical 11-1 record. The first half was 45 minutes of momentum shifts but ended in a scoreless tie.
Hutch changed the game quickly in the second half. Less than four minutes in, Melissa Hetherington took a ball off her chest and kicked it over her head toward the Butler goal. The ball dropped right under the crossbar and above an outreached Nuessen to put Hutch on the board. Despite being down, Butler remained composed and pressed the Hutchinson back line, dominating play until the final whistle, but several missed opportunities came back to haunt Butler in what turned out to be a 1-0 loss.