Butler Grizzlies soccer wins region championship on penalty kicks over Cowley College Tigers
WICHITA — For a handful of these players, they've experience defeat in title games a handful over the last few years.
On Saturday night, inside a brisk Stryker Soccer Complex, the Kansas Rus... I mean, the Butler Grizzlies avenged some of their losses in summer tournaments and did it on the biggest state so far of their young collegiate lives.
"When we were on Rush, we'd go to the state tournament, get to the state championship game and lose year after year to the same team," Kyrah Klumpp said. "So, I feel like it's not even just for me, but for all those players as a whole, it feels nice to actually like stick through a championship game without like handing it back to the other team."
The Grizzlies sought revenge on Cowley with the 3-2 win on penalty kicks to advance to the 2021 NJCAA national tournament in Dayton Beach, Florida.
Cowley had beaten Butler 3-2 earlier this season so being able to come back and beat them for the right to national tournament feels great.
"Oh yeah this one feels real good," Klumpp said. "They're a really good team."
For head coach Adam Hunter, this season has been one years in the making. As the head coach of a summer club team, Hunter has seen a lot of these girls play together for a long period of time, seeing the expectations high for this season.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself this year that it was kind of national tournament or bust," Hunter said. "It would have been a very long summer had we not got there."
At least nine of Butler's players played for the Rush club team and the idea they would commit together and play at the next level was always in the cards. Getting to the national tournament? That was also there.
"We've been looking forward to this ever since we all committed," Klumpp said. "We've been expecting and anticipating a national tournament trip."
It almost didn't happen as Cowley blitzed Butler for two goals in five minutes to erase the 2-0 lead Butler had at halftime.
After Butler used header from Kim Mcalpine and another from Morgan Houston, it felt as if Butler was going to run away with it. However, Cowley dominated possession, not letting the Grizzlies (17-4-1) get any sort of offensive momentum in the second half.
On the outside, it appeared Butler parked the bus with a two-goal lead but Cowley's ability to spread Butler thin limited their chances.
"Cowley was good tonight," Hunter said. "They really made life miserable because they use the width so well."
This Butler team never panicked or showed any signs of letting this one slip completely away. They limited Cowley to only one real opportunity after the second goal and when Kim Mcalpine came back into the game, they were able to get some possession into the attacking third.
Despite the improved pressure, both teams were tied 2-2 and were forced into penalty kicks.
That's where Klumpp shined.
Often on penalty kicks, the keeper will try intimidation tactics, trying to get into the kicker's head but not Klumpp. The freshman from Valley Center trusted her gut and let her play do the talking.
"I think it's more intimidating if I keep quiet," Klumpp said.
Cowley missed two kicks and she saved another.
"Travis [Stipp] does a good job of scouting other team's penalty kicks," Hunter said. "We were ready."
Butler took a 3-2 lead on PKs into the fifth round. Cowley's Francisca Valenzuela dinged it off the right post, sending Butler back to the national tournament.
"The scouting report had her going the other way," Klumpp said. "I started going the other way and she went the way she did and I stopped."
The win sends Butler back to the NJCAA soccer national tournament where Butler was only five months ago. That team wasn't supposed to be there. They stunned everyone in rout to their appearance.
This team? They expected to be here.
"We've known what talent we've had on this roster," Hunter said. "What we've gone through on this roster has prepared us for these games."
Butler's non-conference schedule was arguably the toughest in the NJCAA. They opened against No. 1 Tyler, No. 13 Rose Hill, and No. 6 Seminole State. They also played Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa, who finished 18th nationally. They also took down then-seventh ranked Laramie County.
They've gone through the fire and have come out on the other side with another national tournament appearance.
For Cowley, they finish the season 15-2-1, they await to see if they can get into the tournament as an at large bid.
Butler will head to Dayton Beach for a shot at a national championship. It'll be Butler's ninth opportunity at winning the elusive title. It takes place Nov. 15-20 in Dayton Beach, Florida. The pool play will be Nov. 15-17 and then comes the elimination bracket Nov. 18-20.
"Now that it's [national tournament] finally here, I think it's gonna be really fun," Klumpp said. "It's going to be exciting."