Women’s soccer hands Panthers rare home loss

The Butler women’s soccer team accomplished something on Sunday that no Horizon League team has been able to in nearly 12 years: beat the Milwaukee Panthers on their own turf.

The Bulldogs (5-9, 3-1 HL) snapped Milwaukee’s 37-game unbeaten home streak against league opponents and handed the Panthers (8-4-2, 3-1 HL) their first conference loss since Oct. 3, 2008.

Butler was led by sophomore Katie Griswold’s 17th-minute goal and the strong play of senior goalkeeper Olivia Walter.

Walter’s 10-save effort tied for the most in conference play this season and helped her earn Horizon League Player of the Week honors for the week of Oct. 4-10.

The Panthers outshot Butler 16-2 in the game and 10-0 in the second half.

Walter had several close calls, including a free kick from Milwaukee junior Sarah Hagen that bounced off the cross bar. Milwaukee senior Nicole Hirsch attempted to tie the game in the closing seconds but Walter made the save.

“As a senior, we really look to Olivia in times like those when we come under fire,” head coach Tari St. John said.

Walter was not the only senior that stepped up for the Bulldogs against Milwaukee.

Cara Burchett was given the difficult task of defending Hagen, the two-time Horizon League Player of the Year, for the entire game.

In Butler’s 1-0 loss to Milwaukee last season, Hagen’s goal was the difference.

“Hagen is one of the best players in the country,” St. John said. “Keeping her off the scoreboard was essential to winning this game and Cara did it.”

This year’s 1-0 victory marked Butler’s first win over Milwaukee since 1999.

“We had the perfect balance of enough kids with experience and leadership on the field and enough kids that had no idea of the magnitude of the game,” St. John said. “This is the best I’ve seen us compete against a Milwaukee team in my seven years here.”

The victory capped a perfect weekend for the Bulldogs, who defeated Green Bay, 3-0, on Friday.

In the win, freshmen twins Jackie and Nikki Hafele both had goals, assisted by senior Sarah Phelps and sophomore Rachael Melendez respectively. Phelps added a goal in the 75th minute.

In St. John’s tenure at Butler, she had never returned from the Wisconsin road trip victorious. However, her youthful squad notched both wins while moving to 3-1 in conference play.

While the squad’s improvement has yielded success, the Bulldogs will need to stay focused.

“We can’t get big-headed about beating Milwaukee because, if we don’t finish the season off strong, it won’t mean as much,” Walter said.

This weekend, Butler will go head-to-head with conference co-leaders Loyola and Detroit.

Butler will host Loyola on Friday at 4 p.m. and visit Detroit on Sunday.

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