By Dave Pearce
It takes a whole lot of things to build a high school sports program. It takes good parents, committed athletes, good coaches, experience, and a ton of time.
And while everyone would like to see the North Posey youthful girls’ soccer team achieve a high level of success during this season, Coach Scott Butrum knows that while he sees improvement nearly every day, his young players are not going to be able to go out night after night and beat teams that are comprised primarily of upperclassmen who have years and years of experience, often playing together.
But that still has not stopped this year’s team from carving out an 8-5-1 record against some of the area’s better competition and giving everyone associated with the program a glimpse of what it can become, providing the elements described above all fall into place. The 8-5-1 record could well be the best record of any North Posey girls’ soccer team since the inception of the program at this point in the season.
“We had a big and talented freshman class come in this season and they have meshed well with the upperclassmen,” Butrum said. “And this week on senior night, we see that we will lose five seniors but it looks like we will be replacing them with 11 eighth graders who will be coming in as freshmen next year. That’s not good news for future Viking opponents.
But Butrum also knows that if the team is going to improve, they are going to have to play as many games as possible against some of the best competition they can play. That’s why he added a rare Wednesday night game to this year’s schedule to give the Vikings a chance to face one of the area’s best teams in the Reitz Panthers.
And the Vikings performed well, at least for a half. After the girls realized that they could play the mighty Panthers to a scoreless half, he substituted freely during the second half and the Panthers took advantage, scoring five goals. But Butrum said the first half proved to him what he needed to see out of his team, particularly since they were facing a team the caliber of Reitz.
“Reitz has a very, very good team,” Butrum complimented the large west side school. “They have predominantly juniors and seniors who have played a lot of soccer and have played together for a long time.”
But in the first half, you wouldn’t have known it. The youthful Lady Vikings did not back down from the challenge. And even though Viking senior goalie Mallory Schmitt was forced to stop a number of shots on goal, the Vikings had proven they can play with some of the best.”
“I had seen all I needed to see,” Butrum said. “And we had a big Pocket Athletic Conference match coming up on Thursday night and I wanted to save them a little bit.”
But all in all, the sheer size, speed, and hard-nosed play of the Panthers took its toll on the young Vikings and it would be an injustice to say the hard game against Reitz did not effect the Vikings when the Heritage Hills Patriots came to town on Thursday.
Again, it was a close game much of the way but two nights facing bigger, more experienced squads took its toll on the Lady Vikings. They gave up two goals late to make a close game appear to be lop-sided. But the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.
The Vikings will have no easy time, this year or any year, as they are in the sectional with established programs such as Gibson Southern and Mater Dei.
“Either of those will be a very tough draw,” Butrum said. But the Reitz Panthers got five goals mostly on Viking substitutes in the second half and the Panthers defeated Mater Dei 3-0. In the second game of the season, an intimidated group of youngsters lost in Evansville to Mater Dei by a score of 10-0. The team lost early-on to Gibson Southern 4-0, giving up all four goals in the first half. That’s a glimpse of how far Butrum and his young team have come.
“My seniors have some experience and I am very proud of them,” Butrum said. “My freshmen and sophomores are just needing that knowledge of the game from them. But I think I have better ball control and foot skills from the younger players and the bulk of the game knowledge and the experience from my upperclassmen.”
Butrum went on to say that he believes, that with the help of a solid team around her, freshman Loryn Willis could set a new standard for scoring goals at North Posey. She has scored in every game and is described by her coach as “a finisher.”
Willis had three goals and Brianna Perry added one in this week’s 4-0 whitewashing of Pike Central. Last Wednesday, Willis had two goals, while Maddie Koester and Shelby Newcomer each had goals in a 4-1 victory over Evansville Day School.
Mallory Schmitt, senior goalkeeper, is helping some of the younger players develop some of the skills in goal that have helped her become an effective player.
“Maddie Koester is the heart and soul of my center mid-field right now,” Butrum said. “We are building on some of these girls. MacKenzie Orlik is very fast and I have finally found a home for her in the back. She plays very well there.”
But for now, Butrum says he is building and building takes time and some experimentation as some players are playing in positions this year they he believes they will not be playing next year.
But while the coach is building, he also realizes there is soccer to be played this season and his team’s young players have almost a season’s experience under their belts now. And he feels they turned the corner about four or five games ago.
“South Spencer is not a great team but we went up there and fell behind. It is not ever easy to go to someone else’s field and play and we fell behind,” Butrum said. “But when we fought back to win that game 3-1, I saw a big difference in our team, especially the freshmen, as they saw they could find a way to fight back and win games like that. From that point, I have seen a big difference, especially in the younger players.”
Butrum realizes that his young players are being pushed around and learning from their mistakes against older, more experienced players. But each night out, they are learning.
“The unity among these girls has just been amazing,” Butrum said of the Vikings. “They simply don’t bicker. They all get along from the player who sees no action to the player who starts every game, they all find a way to get along. That is so important in trying to learn the game better.”
After all, that’s why they call it “building a program.”
By Dave Pearce
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