Butler Grizzlies soccer pushes top-ranked Tyler CC but falls late

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler freshman forward Kenzee Godwin (right) and Tyler defender Emmy Dodson battle for possession during the first half of the Grizzlies' season opener on Friday afternoon at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex. Butler, ranked 11th in the NJCAA preseason poll, allowed a pair of second-half goals in a 2-0 loss to the top-ranked Apaches.

EL DORADO — The Butler Grizzlies' soccer team had their opportunities. In fact, they out shot the top team in the nation but in the end, if you don't make any of those shots, it doesn't matter. 

Tyler CC, the two-time defending national champion, who came in riding a 26-game winning streak score two goals in the game's final 16 minutes to beat Butler 2-0 in each team's season opener. 

"Sometimes you have to be a little lucky," 15th-year head coach Adam Hunter said. "Tonight, they were a little more lucky than we were."

Butler dominated possession and the pace of the game. They were able to get behind the Apache defense on numerous occasions but Tyler showed why they are the defending champions. They forced almost every Butler shot to a bad angle, limiting scoring opportunities. 

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Freshman Kenzee Godwin (McPherson, Kansas) led Butler with three shots but all three end dup in the bread basket of the Tyler keeper, Daniella Wilken. 

"Our backline did a good job of not panicking when they got behind us," Tyler CC head coach Corey Rose said. "Their offense gave us trouble all game long."

The ranking and lore that comes with Tyler didn't faze the Grizzlies as they were aggressive and unafraid of taking it to Tyler. However, Tyler never blinked. While they did bend and let the Grizzles into the box, they never really put themselves in a bad situation. 

For Tyler, they were able to wait out the first half, where an 18 mph. They withstood the wave-after-wave of the Butler offensive onslaught in the first half. 

In the second half, Tyler turned the tables a bit. While Butler had their chances, Tyler was able to gain some momentum and finally found a breakthrough in the 74th minute. 

Tyler's Tessa Thornton put a ball in the upper corner from 23 yards out for the go-ahead goal.

"That was a heck of a goal she scored," Rose said. "She's going to score a lot of goals for us."

Six minutes later, Thornton did it again. This time, she found a deflected ball at her feet and she put it where no one could reach for the 2-0 lead. 

"We never quit," Hunter said. "Right after they scored, we came back and we had the header and nearly scored."

Had this been only a 70-minute match, the Grizzlies may be walking away with a draw but some inexperience and the heat showed Tyler had a little more juice than Butler did.

"They had more in the tank," Hunter said. "We'll get there. We just weren't there tonight."

With only a handful of players back from last season's national tournament team, Hunter loaded the Grizzlies with local talent. Of their 14 freshman on this year's roster, 12 are from the immediate Butler County area. Four of them played in Butler County.

"We're never going to turn down a good player," Hunter said. "I believe we can get some of the best talent here in our area."

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While Butler may have lost on Friday, the future is very, very bright for this club. 

When asked if he thinks Butler is going to be that team no one wants to play in a couple of months.

"I hope so."

Butler will get another tough contest as they host No. 13 Rose State (OK) at 4 p.m. at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.