MELBOURNE, Fla. - The Butler women's soccer team continued to be stingy defensively, even in the opening round of the NJCAA national tournament.
The Grizzlies won their 16th straight game Monday, defeating Schoolcraft (Mich.) 3-0 in the opening round of play at the NJCAA Division I National Women's Soccer Championships at Eastern Florida State College's Titan Soccer Complex on the Melbourne Campus.
The Grizzlies will face Darton State (Ga.) at 10:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. Central) on Wednesday. A win would advance Butler into the national semifinals.
Jaclyn Means and Rosa Urista-Chico both had a goal and an assist for Butler (20-2-0), which is the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
While it was the offense that sealed the deal, Grizzlies coach Adam Hunter singled out goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger and defenders Madison Zimmer and Baylee Vaughn as being the keys to victory not only Monday, but during the team's winning streak.
"I think our backline and our goalkeeper continue to do a good job of putting out some fires we make and protecting our goal," Hunter said. "There were some stretches there where Schoolcraft really had some possession and had some momentum.
"Jami made some big saves and we had some defenders come in and clean it up right in front of the goal. So really, our back line and our goalkeeper give us a chance to stay in every game."
Schoolcraft was able to put some early pressure on Butler, but it was the Grizzlies who broke through in the 25th minute of the first half. Urista-Chico fired a shot that bounced off the Schoolcraft keeper and right to Means, who slid the ball between two defenders and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
It would stay that way until the second half when Urista-Chico launched a shot from at least 30 yards away that went over the head of Schoolcraft goalkeeper Katie Dangelmaier and into the net at the far post.
The goal gave the Grizzlies a big boost with just under 30 minutes left in regulation.
"I think that was awesome," Means said. "I think that really helped us because 1-0, that's a really nervous game. It could go either way. But (a) two (goal lead), you kind of have a safety net. It kind of helped us bring up the (energy)."
Lauren Allen would assist on a goal by Jaclyn Means to make it 3-0 in the 72nd minute and round out the scoring.
Schoolcraft (16-2-0) certainly had its chances Monday, but couldn't capitalize. Reichenberger made a diving save in the final 10 minutes to help Butler preserve the shutout.
It is the 17th shutout of the season for Reichenberger and Butler, who lead the nation in that category. It also extends Reichenberger's school record for most shutouts in the season.
"I think the game's about winning the moments, and they had moments in the game that they capitalized on and the moments we created in front of their goal, we failed on. I think it's a learning experience for our group," Schoolcraft coach Dave Carver said. "Dealing with the occasion is an area we're obviously going to grow in."
This is Schoolcraft's first appearance in the NJCAA tournament since 2010, while Butler is making its fifth consecutive trip to the big tournament.
The Grizzlies' best finish thus far has been an appearance in the 2013 national semifinals, where they lost to Navarro.
"We aren't satisfied at all," Means said. "I mean, we're happy we made it (here), but we're still hungry."
Butler is now 5-4-2 in its five national tournament appearances and has won a match in each appearance with the exception of 2013 when Butler was 0-2-1.