In Melbourne, Fla., entering last Thursday, the No. 13 Owens Community College women's soccer team (18-3) needed a lot of help to stay alive in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Tournament, and they got it.
The Express needed No. 5 Butler Community College to tie No. 4 Darton State College in regulation and win in penalty kicks. Not only did they need that, they needed each team to score at least one goal in regulation. Both of those things happened as Butler and Darton tied 1-1 in regulation with Butler winning 4-3 in penalty kicks.
The first tie breaker was goals against in regulation, with the second being goal differential in regulation. Each of the three games between the two teams ended in 1-1 ties with each team picking up a win in the penalty kick phase, while each team also picked up a loss in the penalty kick phase.
The Express took on Darton State at 1 p.m. Thursday. Via a coin toss, Butler received a bye in the playoff and will play the winner of Owens-Darton following the conclusion of the first match.
The format of each game was two, 10 minute sudden death periods followed by a penalty kick round if necessary.
Owens, Butler and Darton are competing for the right to go to the NJCAA D-I Women's Soccer National Tournament Final Four to be played over weekend. The winner of the playoff advances to those semifinals. The one-day playoff is a first for NJCAA D-I national tournament play in soccer — men's or women's.
Grindle gets late goal
In the opening match, Grindle scored with 13 minutes left to tie the game, but the Express fell 6-5 in penalty kicks to Darton State.
A scoreless game at halftime, Darton State got on board first with a goal from Brianna Lemerise at the 49:10 mark.
Later, Grindle had a one-on-one with Darton's goalkeeper, but was stopped in an attempt to loft it over her head. Then, with 13:10 left, Grindle didn't miss as she took a pass from Kendyl Christian (Clay) and beat the keeper with a sliding goal.
After regulation ended, the game went into the penalty kick phase without overtime. Darton State started first, while each team made their first give goals in the penalty kick phase. Janay Campbell scored the sixth PK goal for Darton State, and Taylor Avers (Woodmore) was stopped in an attempt to score on the far left side.
Christian, Grindle, Jill Burkholder (Bryan), Haley Kreger (Bedford, Mich.) and Elizabeth Theaker (Maumee) had each scored to keep the Express alive prior to the sixth set of penalty kicks.
Grindle's goal was her 22nd of the season, which puts her in sole possession of second place for most goals in a single season in program history. She passed Kendra Eitniear's 21 goal, 2011 season today. Christian's assist was her fifth of the season.
Owens goalkeeper Erika Brinkman (Kalida) made a couple tremendous saves down the stretch to keep the Express in it.
Darton State's Lyana Perez, who is one of the nation's leading scorers with 38 goals, was held to just one, late shot on goal by the Express defense.
The Express had their 15-match win streak snapped today with the loss, while Darton State (21-1-1) improved their winning streak to 13.
The Express saw a familiar scenario play out in the second game. However, this one ended with the Express getting the victory in penalty kicks.
Grindle, Theaker come through
Grindle scored on a corner from Burkholder with just under four minutes remaining in the first half to give the Express a 1-0 lead.
In that half, the Express held Butler without a shot on goal, and it marked the first time all season Butler had that happen to them. In fact, Butler's Morgan Foster came into the came leading the nation in goals scored with 43. She was held without a goal until the penalty kick session.
In the second half, Butler's Brittney Lawrence found the net for her team in the game's 53rd minute to tie it up.
Following that, each team had their chances. Butler had two late corners, but was stuffed both times. Additionally, Brinkman made several nice saves down the stretch to send her team to PKs for the second straight game.
This time, however, the Express came out on top to stay alive in their hopes of advancing to the NJCAA D-I Final Four.
Foster scored to put Butler up 1-0 before Christian answered right back to open the extra session. That's when Brinkman dove to her left and saved a shot by Lawrence to give the Express a chance to take the lead. Grindle, however, was also stopped in the second set of PKs and it remained tie at one.
Following that, Burkholder and Kreger scored for the Express, while Butler's Maddie Decker and Paige Thompson scored — sending it to the fifth round of PKs.
Butler's Korrie Rainey then attempted to go top middle, but banged it off the crossbar to set up Theaker, who sent the ball into the top left corner of the net to gave the No. 13 Express their first national tournament win in program history.
"Walking up there wasn't like anything was different than it was yesterday," Theaker said."I just kind of did the same thing except for the shot. I knew that they watched us take those PKs yesterday. She jumped left, I kicked right, well, my left."
Grindle's goal was her 23rd this season, and it was her 29th career goal. It was her fourth goal of the postseason and her second in the national tournament.
Burkholder's assist was her eighth of the season. On the other side, Butler's Lawrence scored her 28th goal of the season.
With the win, the Express are now 18-3 this year, while Butler falls to 21-3.
"These girls have been the same way all year long," said Express women's soccer head coach Mary Whisler. "They never give up. They never have, they never will. I couldn't ask for a better group. It's a great feeling to be here and to show that we belong."
No. 5 Butler had gone 12 straight games with at least three or more goals this season. The Express held them to one goal for only the third time this season.
In the penalty kick session, the player that scored for each team in regulation (Grindle, Owens and Lawrence, Butler) were both stopped in their shot attempts.