MELBOURNE, Fla. – The Butler women's soccer team had its season begin and end with losses to Iowa Western, as the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Reivers beat the Grizzlies 2-1 in pool play at the NJCAA Women's Division I National Tournament on Wednesday at Eastern Florida State College.
The Grizzlies, who lost their season opener to Iowa Western on the road in August, started the season 0-3-1 but went 16-1-2 from that point, winning a third-consecutive Region VI championship and qualifying for nationals for the fourth consecutive season.
At nationals, Butler beat Waubonsee 5-0 before falling to the Reivers to finish the year 16-5-3. Iowa Western is now 20-0-1. The defending national champions have allowed just four goals this season, with two of them coming to Butler.
"It was a tough one, no doubt about it," said Iowa Western head coach Brad Silvey. "We saw Butler early on this season and we knew they would make a lot of improvements throughout the season. (Head coach) Adam (Hunter) does a fantastic job with his group. A lot of credit to them for making us have to work hard today to earn the win.
"I was really pleased with our second-half performance. I thought the girls applied a lot of the things we spoke about at halftime. I think it was pretty clear cut in the second half I really do think the better team won today."
As for the performance of sophomore Kristine Reynolds who scored the game-winning goal and recorded an assist: "She's playing on injuries," Silvey said. "She had a tremendous outing today. She's a great kid. Stays committed. Doesn't let the game get into her head. Doesn't let adversity effect her."
As the second half wore on Silvey adjusted his defense, moving striker Celia Jimenez, who had an assist, to the back.
"When we want to kind of firm things up and solidify a victory we'll look to pull her back in and help us defend."
Iowa Western broke on top in the 11th minute as sophomore and leading scorer Brianne Richards (26 goals) chipped in past Butler goalkeeper sophomore Kelsi Lengley.
The assist went to Reynolds.
Butler evened things at 1-1 as sophomore Paige Thompson beat Iowa Western goalkeeper freshman Haley Johnson on a penalty kick in the 41st minute. Butler was awarded the penalty after forward Madison Wedekind was pulled down in the box.
Iowa Western applied the pressure in the second half and Reynolds broke the tie in the 65th minute on an assist from sophomore Jimenez.
Langley and her defense turned away Iowa Western on several other occasions keeping their teammates within striking range.
But, in the end Iowa Western stood firm.
"We're not an eighth seed," Hunter said. "For us to have to play them early was a little bit unjustified if you look at the strength of our schedule. So that's frustrating.
"But if you want to win the national championship you've got to beat Iowa Western. That's no disrespect to any other team here. They're the best team and they proved it again today.
"We've been dynamic attacking all year. They figured out how to keep the ball on us in the second half and wore us down."