Ellie McDonald's goal sends Butler into regional final

Randy Smith
Grizzly teammates swarm freshman Ellie MacDonald (#4, middle) after scoring a goal in the 74th minute against Hutchinson in Saturday’s Region VI semifinal at Wichita’s Stryker Sports Complex.

WICHITA, Kansas—What’s being labeled as the postseason redemption tour for Butler soccer was kept alive Saturday afternoon as freshman Ellie MacDonald’s 35-yard free kick into the net in the 74th minute was the difference maker against rival Hutchinson in a 1-0 Region VI semifinal win at Stryker Sports Complex. 

Butler (7-8 overall) not only advanced into Sunday’s regional championship game against Barton at 3 p.m., but also won its second straight contest against an opponent who had the upper hand over the Grizzlies in the regular season meeting. In Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, Butler edged Cowley 2-1 after the Grizzlies lost a pair of one-goal games to Cowley in the regular season. 

Hutch handed Butler a 4-2 defeat on the Blue Dragons’ turf back on April 10, but Saturday’s semifinal had a different outcome.  

“We’ve been saying the word ‘redemption’ a lot, especially for this game,” said Grizzly goalkeeper Maggie Koster, who made a key save on a Hutch free kick minutes after MacDonald’s goal. “When we think back on that last Hutch game (in the regular season), none of us felt like we had our best game. Everyone felt like we still had more to give.”  

“It was such a great opportunity to come out today and show what we could give, because we didn’t think that was our best foot. I think today we showed our best foot.” 

MacDonald’s goal came on after Rachel Wolecki was fouled from behind by a Hutch defender. The ball was placed just off-right parallel from the right post, to which MacDonald struck a right-footed rocket on goal. As the ball approached the goal box, Hutch defender Cheyenne Busker deflected the ball to the right corner and past the outstretched arms of Blue Dragons keeper Kambrian Colborn. 

“I was just trying to get it on target, because I knew (Colborn) wasn’t getting it off her hands,” MacDonald said. “Even if she saved it, we could get a follow up.” 

To add to the suspense after a scoreless first half, Butler had to play on without head coach Adam Hunter shortly after the second half got underway, which left the remaining game duties to assistant coach Travis Stipp. 

Facing a noon kickoff, Hunter informed the team prior that he was attending the 1:30 p.m. high school graduation of his daughter, Brooklyn, who is a senior on Circle’s undefeated soccer squad and is a Butler commit for next season.

“I think Adam and Travis are a tight-knit group, so having Travis here, we didn’t feel we were missing a whole lot,” Koster said. “I think they’re pretty same minded, so we could pretty much trust what Travis has to tell us to do.” 

With tourney wins over Cowley and Hutchinson, Butler will seek revenge against a third straight opponent in Barton, who handed the Grizzlies a 4-0 defeat two weeks ago at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex. The Cougars (11-3-1) pulled out a late 2-1 semifinal victory over Jayhawk East champion Kansas City Kansas with a goal in the 88th minute from Kadin Stinson. 

“Every game, we just want to leave it all out on the field,” Koster said. “We know we’re there’s no going back to it if we lose. What we’ve been saying before every game is at the end of the day that it’s a game that we get play with our friends. I just don’t think we’re done playing with our friends yet.” 

NOTES: Butler keeps the all-time series lead at 12-9 against Hutchinson. The Grizzlies improved to 5-4 vs. the Blue Dragons in Region VI postseason play…. Sunday’s championship game will mark the 11th Region VI title appearance in the program’s history.