NORTH NEWTON - What a difference a player makes – Corina Villegas to be exact. Villegas made her return to the starting lineup for the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes and she scored twice, including the match winner in the 99th minute to life the Coyotes over the Ottawa Braves 3-2 at Thresher Stadium.
“As you saw, she played well,” Kansas Wesleyan coach Mike Dibbini said of Villegas. “But there was a difference in our execution and her setting up our scoring chances that made the difference in the match today.”
Wesleyan also welcomed back defender Brittany Corcoran to the pitch, who had missed the last four games before returning part time in last Saturday’s regular season finale and again on Tuesday against Friends in the KCAC Semifinal in Salina.
“Having Brittany back brought back our confidence and gave us that added security in the back,” Dibbini said.
Wesleyan broke a scoreless tie in the 28th minute as Villegas connected on her first goal of the match. Elba Menjivar sent a ball into the penalty area on a corner, and after the scrum for the ball, Villegas connected from about 12 yards out for the top shelf score past Ottawa’s Lauren Peil.
Two minutes later Ottawa got the equalizer as Amanda Just found Whitney Bowen on a corner kick and Bowen headed it home past Wesleyan keeper Amanda Radich.
The teams would head to the break tied at 1.
Just four minutes into the second half, the Coyotes were on the board again. Hannah Kern broke free at the top of the box, beat a couple defenders and slid one past Peil for the go ahead goal in the 49th minute.
Ottawa again evened things at 2-all in the 86th minute as Bowen connected on a shot from about 12 yards out.
“I was a little disappointed and sad at that point because we didn’t preserve the win and let them back into the game,” Dibbini said. “It goes to show that a couple opportunities that we didn’t convert earlier can come back to haunt you.”
The match then headed to overtime with Ottawa taking three early shots all stopped by Radich, then in the 99th minute, Villegas connected on the match winner. Imaan Issa who was just inside the 18-yard box on the left side dropped a ball into Villegas at the left corner of the six-yard box.
Villegas knocked down the ball and poked the shot with her left foot to the far post. The slow, slow roller snuck just inside the post for the match winner with 1:32 left in overtime.
“She was determined,” Dibbini said of Villegas on the winner. “I wasn’t sure I was even going to start her today, but when I asked her prior to the start of the match she said she was ready. She had a great practice two days ago, where she got her rhythm and she brought that today for us.”
Wesleyan (10-6-2) was led by Villegas with four shots, including three on goal and scoring twice. Amanda Radich picked up the win in goal, allowing two goals and recording ten saves.
Bowen had five of Ottawa’s (15-3-2) 15 shots, scoring both goals for the Braves. Peil took the loss in goal, allowing three goals and tallying three saves.
Wesleyan advances to the NAIA Women’s Soccer Championship Opening Round, which will be played next Saturday at 16 campus sites around the country. The winners of those 16 Opening Round matches will advance to the NAIA National Championship Final Site in Decatur, Ala., starting November 29 and running through December 4. Opening Round sites and pairings will be announced by the NAIA on Sunday.