Butler Grizzlies soccer moves one step closer to NJCAA semifinals

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Natalie Amaya (left), Joy Ngibuini (middle left), Kim McAlpine (25) and Brooklyn Hunter (8) all celebrate the lone goal in the win over Iowa Western on Monday, Nov. 15. Butler defeated Iowa Western, 1-0 in the pool play of the NJCAA women's soccer national tournament in Dayton Beach, Florida.

DAYTON BEACH, Florida — It appeared Natalie Amaya had chipped a goal over the head of the Iowa Western goalkeeper in the 27th minute.

Not so fast said the replay.

Amaya's shot was deflect off the head of teammate, Joy Ngibuini, despite the NJCAA giving the goal to Amaya, and Butler stunned the fourth-seeded Iowa Western Reivers, 1-0. 

The win puts ninth-seeded Butler (18-4-1) atop the D group in the 2021 NJCAA women's soccer national tournament group stage. The winner of the group moves onto the the national semifinals on Friday, Nov. 19. 

"Natalie [Amaya] obviously changed the game, right?" Butler head coach Adam Hunter said. "When you can have a kid come in and give you that off the bench. You know, that's a pretty good set."

Amay's involvement helped Butler win their first group play game in the national tournament stage since beating Cape Fear CC (NC), 3-0, in 2016.

"I think that we were always gonna be a little bit concerned about starting so many freshmen in their first national tournament game," Hunter said. "You know you can't re-create playing in the national."

The nerves led to a lot of midfield back-and-forth by both teams early on and was playing as if it was going to be a draw heading into the break. The, Amaya came off the benched, stretched the Reivers' back line and forced them out to the edge of the box, creating the eventual game-winning goal. 

With the 1-0 lead in place, Iowa Western (16-2) peppered Butler relentlessly in the second half, similarly to what Cowley did in the Region VI championship game. 

This time, Butler didn't break. 

While Butler struggled to clear the ball out of their defensive third for a majority of the second half. They had their opportunities on the county Ngibuini had a chance but slipped it wide. Kim McAlpine almost put one in on a corner but it skipped wide. All of these chances were there for the Grizzlies. 

Disaster almost struck in the 72nd minute but a handball kept the Grizzlies in front after it appeared Iowa Western had scored. The Center official wasted no time finding the whistle and signaling hand ball. 

"What we've done is we've dropped so far off because we don't want to be going behind us," Hunter said. "We've given up all this space in front of us and they're just pinging the ball around until they get into our backline. Now, our backline has got to deal with all these players running on top of the box, which is super risky. Then, we win the ball and we panic and we kick it back to him and we're we're doing the same thing again."

Iowa Western hit Butler with eight shot attempts in the second half, six of those came within the box after the Grizzlies had relatively kept the Reivers out of the 18-yard box int he first half. Kyrah Klumpp had four saves for the Grizzlies on the night. 

It's the first loss for Iowa Western since Sept, 25 against Indian Hills. 

Butler now turns their attention to Salt Lake CC, the tournament's fifth seed. The Grizzlies and the Bruins were familiar foes last year in the NJCAA tournament, with Salt Lake CC winning, 4-0. Salt Lake outshot Butler in that match, 35-0. SLCC went on and finished runner-up in the spring.

"Our sophomores want to have a better showing than we had again salt lake in the spring," Hunter said. "Hopefully, it's going to be a much more competitive game this time around."

Kick off is scheduled for about 4 p.m. local time, 5 p.m. EST at Dayton State College. A win will send the Grizzlies into the NJCAA semifinals on Friday. A loss and they would need help to get there. 

No. 9 Butler 1, No. 4 Iowa Western 0

Butler        1    0    —    1

Western    0    0    —    0

27' - (officially) Amaya (unofficially: Ngibuini)

Shots: Butler 14, Iowa Western 11; Corners: Butler 6, Iowa Western 2; Fouls: Butler 15; Iowa Western 6; Saves: Butler—Klumpp 2;2—4; Iowa Western—Goliveras 3;0—3

Group D standings

team; record; goals; allowed; difference

Butler                1-0    1    0    +1

Salt Lake           0-0    0    0    0

Iowa Western    0-1    0    1    -1

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.