BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Playing a tough, physical game against a high-quality opponent like Iowa Western was just what the Tyler Junior College Apache Ladies needed Wednesday as they prepare for the semifinals of the NJCAA national women’s soccer tournament.

The fifth-seeded Apaches booked their semifinal ticket with a 2-1 overtime victory over the No. 4 Reivers at the Titan Soccer Complex on the Melbourne campus of Eastern Florida State College.

Freshman O’Shay Nelson scored the game-winner for Tyler four minutes into the first overtime period on an assist from Kie Asai.

Nelson also scored the game-tying goal on an assist from Riley MacLeod less than 30 seconds after Iowa Western had scored the game’s first goal.

Tyler (21-2-1) will advance to Friday’s semifinals against Laramie County (Wyoming). The match is set for 7 p.m. The other semifinal has No. 1 Paradise Valley (Arizona) meeting No. 7 Monroe (New York) Community College at 4 p.m.

The semifinal winners advance to the national championship game, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday. There is not a third-place match and the semifinal losers will share the bronze.

“It was good. We needed to battle more,” Tyler coach Corey Rose said of Wednesday’s game. “It’s good to have a game like that going into the final four.”

Iowa Western (15-3-0), which was upset 3-2 by Darton State (Georgia) on Monday, came into Wednesday’s game knowing it had to win by at least two goals to advance to the semifinals on goal differential.

The Reivers broke through with just over 17 minutes to play when Amanda Fullmer converted on a corner kick by Cristina Moreno for a 1-0 lead.

But Tyler attacked immediately afterward and when McLeod’s shot was blocked by Iowa Western keeper Rebecca Jenson, Nelson was there to put the rebound home.

In overtime, she took a pass from Kie and was able to cut in and work free to get a shot and put it home.

“It was a surprise to me, actually,” Nelson said. “I didn’t know I’d actually get through with that, but I did it.”

Once again, Tyler’s depth and flexibility with its roster paid off in a big way for the Apache Ladies, who outshot Iowa Western 15-9.

Nelson converted on both of her attempts.

“She came in as a striker, but we liked her in the back a little bit more,” Rose said of Nelson. “If we get in these types of situations, we’re able to move her up and put somebody else in the back to cover.

“She can just get it done.”

Iowa Western, which played a much better game on Wednesday, and coach Adam Sanchez was happy with the Reivers’ effort in a game that was quite physical.

“That’s what we want and that’s what we expect - a great game against a great opponent, and opponent that requires us to be better and to be our best” Sanchez said. “We don’t need to hang our heads at all because I thought we fought well. We tested them. We required them to be better.

“And that’s what soccer’s all about. It’s just a battle between who you are and who you want to become. I think we made some strides today even though the result didn’t go our way.”

Nelson believes Wednesday’s game will help the Apaches prepare for what awaits them in the national semifinals.

“In the beginning, we weren’t as physical, but now since we’re playing teams like this, it’s kind of helping us (get ready for) the next team that we’re going to play,” she said.

After missing out on the national semifinals last year, Rose said his 13 sophomores put a big emphasis on making it back to Melbourne and this time getting through to the final four.

“That’s one of our goals, our expectations at Tyler,” Rose said. “We need to be in the final four. But we know everybody’s going to give us their best game. Yesterday, Darton gave us their best game. Iowa Western gave us their best game today, I thought. We just had to weather through things.”

 
 

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