KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Behind a pair of goals in an outstanding outing from Megan Nugent and lockdown team defense after halftime, Avila women's soccer celebrated its first KCAC postseason home game in style, taking down Bethany 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2020 KCAC Women's Soccer Championship Friday night at Center High School, booking a spot in the tournament semifinals in Wichita, Kansas for the second straight season.
And for the second straight season, the quarterfinals pitted these two schools against each other in the opening round. But unlike in 2019 where Bethany was the host team in the 4/5 matchup, this time around Avila hosted the contest in the 3/6 matchup, the Eagles' first postseason home game in their three-year stint in the KCAC.
But unlike in the 2019 season where Bethany won the regular-season matchup only for Avila to exact some revenge in the postseason, the Swedes were not able to avenge Avila's epic regular-season victory in the playoffs, where the Eagles pulled out a 2-1 victory to advance to the next round – the same scoreline they beat Bethany by in Lindsborg last season.
Coming off a matchup with MNU in their regular season finale in which they were not credited with a single shot attempt, the Eagles were clearly motivated to manufacture a different narrative in their first postseason game: they brought the ball into the attacking zone right off the opening kick, setting up a chance for Cortlyn Ash. Her bid didn't end up close to the cage, but what it did do what set the tone for what the Eagles wanted to do on the offensive end – a mentality that resulted in a 23-6 shot advantage when all was said and done.
Though the Eagles had the majority of the chances early, it was the Swedes who struck first. Eden Fridlington was called for a foul just outside of the box, and Melissa Estrada stepped up to take it for the Swedes. Suddenly though, they about-faced, and Estrada gave way to Isabella Lopez to attempt the shot – and she delivered, lofting her spot kick over Madison Baker's outstretched left hand and in for the opening salvo about 25 minutes into the contest.
If they were taken aback by that turn of events, the Eagles did not show it. In fact, they retaliated almost immediately, winning two corner kicks and then winning the ball back in their own half. Maddie Davis accelerated down the left sideline, cut back around a pair of defenders, and fed the ball ahead to her twin sister Meggie Davis, who placed an entry pass between two Swedes and into the path of Megan Nugent. Nugent charged in for the loose ball, smacked a shot at sliding Swede goalkeeper Jordan Wells, and collected her own rebound, slotting it into a wide open cage. Four minutes after Lopez's strike, the game was tied again.
Morgan Pettlon and Kirryn Killingsworth ended the first half by creating a few more chances, and the Eagles got right back to work in the second. A little more than ten minutes into the second half, Avila head coach inserted Itzel Almanza into the action, changing the shape of her attack and forcing Nugent into the center.
The change paid off almost immediately. Almanza helped send the ball into space on the right flank and Ash was the first to get to it, charging into the attacking third and lofting a cross into the box. Who was there to receive it? Megan Nugent, who dug out the ball and blasted it past Wells to make it 2-1 with about 33 minutes left to play.
From there, the Avila defense absolutely locked it down. Baker was credited with two saves, but neither troubled her much at all, and the Eagle back line led by Hannah Hill, Montana Elliott, Amaris Sigler and Maddie Davis, all of whom played the entire 90 minutes, stymied the Swedes all period long. Wells had to dive to her left to deny a great chance at a hat trick for Nugent, a score that would have clinched the game with about 20 minutes left, but Avila didn't need any further separation, locking down the 2-1 win and a spot in the semifinals.
After the higher-seeded teams all won their quarterfinal matchups at home in round one, the Eagles will now turn their attention back to #2 Kansas Wesleyan who awaits in the semifinals. The Coyotes lost just two games in the KCAC this season – once to #1-seed and undefeated Oklahoma Wesleyan, and once to #3-seed Avila at Center High School earlier this semester.
That matchup will be the second semifinal contest this Wednesday at the Stryker Sports Complex in Wichita, Kansas, and will kick off at 7 PM following the conclusion of OWKU-Southwestern in the first semifinal at 4. Tickets are available through the KCAC website and must be reserved in advance, and the conference will put together the broadcast as well. More details are available on our website, avilaathletics.com.