By Dave Pearce
North Posey girls’ soccer coach Scott Butrum knew he had a very young soccer team coming into this season. He also knew that the Lady Vikings have not enjoyed a high level of success in soccer over the years. However, Butrum, with excitement, coached this young squad to a 9-5-3 record this year, coming up one game short of a sectional title.
But to get to the title game, the Vikings would have to do what they had not been able to do just a week before, and that was beat Princeton. But in the sectional, his team played probably their best half of soccer all season long and made a 2-0 half-time lead stand up on Thursday evening and advanced to face Mater Dei in the sectional title tilt. The Wildcats, who spent a good part of the season ranked in state polls despite several injuries, defeated Gibson Southern to get to the title match.
But the Viking win over Princeton offered several firsts. It was the first time Butrum had won a post-season game with the girls’ program. And Butrum was elated with the win.
Just a week before the sectional, the Vikings and the Princeton Tigers had played to a 2-2 tie on the same field. What made the difference come tourney time.
“I think I might have been a little bit of the cause the first game we –played them,” Butrum said with an infectious smile after the game. “Knowing that it wasn’t a conference game and knowing that we had to play them again this week, I may not have played them as hard as we should have.”
Butrum went on to explain that he did not play some players in the first outing and played some players in different positions than they normally play in the first outing. But what was intended to be a strategy was not as effective as Butrum had hoped, despite getting the win.
“It hurt us because I think it is more difficult for girls to change things back to the way they were,” Butrum explained. ”I learned a valuable lesson there. But when we set them up in the formation we had there in the first half, we dominated the first half.”
Savannah King and Loryn Willis, the mainstays on the scoring end all season long, did not let their coach down as each picked up a goal in the decisive first half.
But in the second half, the team appeared tired at times and as a predominantly young team, are still getting the competitive legs under them as high school varsity soccer players. Additionally, they have not reached full maturity and some are still experiencing growing. The combination puts some of the team members at an awkward time in their lives. But even with two of the team’s most valuable players out for the season with knew injuries, other members of the team stepped up and the team persevered.
“We kind of fell apart there at times in the second half and a lot of it was just that we were playing into the wind a little bit and I think we just lost our focus,” Butrum said. “We’ve been a one-half team way too often this year.”
But despite a less-tan-stellar second half, the strong first half carried them into the sectional final game against Mater Dei on Saturday evening.
“I think my center mid-fielders got tiered and I think there was too much gap between my forwards and the back,” Butrum said. “But Princeton is much bigger than we are. We are small because we are mostly freshmen and sophomores. We’re going to struggle and when we play kickball with anyone, we are not going to win. We’re just not big enough.”
The Vikings appeared that they might pick up right where they left off against Princeton, holding a powerful Mater Dei offense scoreless until near the 25-minute mark of the first half when Haley Rheinlander, found the back of the net.
All scores in Saturday evening’s championship game with through the talented junior who showed excellent footwork and skills. Rheinlander scored three goals to spark Mater Dei to a 4-0 decision over North Posey in the championship match of the Class A North Posey girls’ sectional. The Wildcats improved to 13-7.
“Rheinlander is a very good player and is a junior and the girl I had marking her is a freshman,” Butrum said. ”I didn’t think she did a bad job at all.”
Although Rheinlander was the smallest player on the field, she was also the quickest and had the best foot skills as she nearly single-handedly beat the Vikings. Once Mater Dei got on the board, they put another pair of goals on the board in the first half and led 3-0 at the half.
But this game was very much unlike the first time when the two teams met this season. In that contest, Mater Dei scored inside the first minute of the game and tallied three goals in the first five minutes. The Saturday night effort allowed Butrum to see how far his team has come, despite critical injuries, and gave him high hopes going into next season.
“They beat us 8-0 and we cut it in half this time,” Butrum said after the game. “We’re twice as good as we were the first time. We got better but I’m not sure that they did and I am missing two very key players, one who had surgery this week and the other will find out next week.”
But despite injuries and youth, Butrum was extremely proud of the battle his team put up against the Wildcats, especially in the second half. His team was able to penetrate and had several shots on goal as the game wore on.
“A much better effort in the second half,” Butrum said. “We weren’t as afraid. I see a lot of the younger girls coming alive. And with the next 11 coming in next year, we’re looking to continue to build. We are going to continue to do nothing but get better.”
Butrum said that had it not been for the intimidation factor in the first half, he would have loved for his girls to have tested Mater Dei’s goalie more.
“Next year, we will see what we can do,” Butrum said.