MELBOURNE, Fla. — Today was supposed to be a rest day for the women’s soccer teams playing in the NJCAA national tournament before the top four faced off in Friday’s semifinals.
Instead, it turned into one of the biggest days of soccer in Darton history.
After the Lady Cavs’ loss to Butler (Kan.) Community College in penalty kicks on Wednesday, Darton, Butler and Owens (Ohio) Community College were all knotted up with three points apiece in the Pool D standings, meaning the three will return to the field today for a three-way tiebreaker to decide who advances to the semifinals.
A win either in regulation or penalty kicks for the Lady Cavs would have vaulted them into the semifinals.
“I am very disappointed,” Darton coach Ken Veilands said. “We didn’t take care of business. There is too much talent on this team that needs to step up. … You aren’t going to win games if you don’t attack the goal.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after regulation before Butler defeated Darton 4-3 in penalty kicks to give all three Pool D teams one loss in PKs and one win in PKs.
Darton and Owens will begin today’s tiebreaker at 1 p.m. with two 10-minute, sudden-death periods, followed by penalty kicks if necessary. The winner then plays Butler in the same format with the winner advancing to the national semifinals.
“We’re alive,” Butler head coach Adam Hunter said. “We got to scout them on Monday and watch where they took their penalties. They got to scout us (Tuesday) night. It was just going to be a matter of a kid stepping up and making a play.”
Butler’s Morgan Foster, the nation’s leading scorer with 43 goals, was successful on the opening penalty kick, followed by Brittney Lawrence’s goal on Butler’s second shot. Madison Decker missed high on Butler’s third try, but Paige Thompson and teammate Alyssia Salinas were successful on the fourth and fifth tries, respectively.
Butler goalkeeper Kelsi Langley blocked Emily Atkinson’s first shot for the Lady Cavs, while Lyana Perez, Megan Thomas and Shanese Bowen were successful. Darton’s Chevelle Lopez was denied by Langley, giving Salinas the opportunity to clinch it for Butler, which she did.
The ride was a wild one for Hunter.
“When the game is on a roller coaster like that I’ll go up to my assistants and I’ll whisper to them that I hate soccer,” he said laughing.
“This is a crazy game isn’t it? We’re on a high and 10 seconds later I’m as frustrated as can be. When we got to the penalties, it can go either way. You just try to stay even keeled and hope that a kid makes a play. I told my kids at halftime somebody’s going to have to make a play.”
The score at halftime was 1-1 thanks to goals 30 seconds apart. Decker scored unassisted for Butler at the 35:58 mark only to see Lopez score off a Brianna Lemerise assist at 35:28.
From there it was back and forth in the rain with neither team able to mount any serious offensive threats, setting up the shoot-out finish.
— Eastern Florida State’s Mark DeCotis contributed to this report