By Bill Foley
Sometimes there really is such a thing as a moral victory.
The was certainly the case Thursday evening as the Butte High girls’ soccer team put up a strong fight in a 4-0 loss to a powerful Bozeman team at a chilly Jeremy Bullock Complex.
“It was great, despite the score,” Bulldog coach Riley McNabb said after the Senior Day loss. “It was everything we asked and more. That’s a great Bozeman team.”
Bozeman jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the first 31 minutes of the match. Keely Kempt scored off a Katie Hayes assist before Kylee Jones fed Addi Ekstrom and Olivia Kaiser for goals.
The Hawks then went nearly 50 full minutes before Jones scored off a Hayes assist in the 78th minute.
That is impressive if you consider that Butte High fell 8-0 to the Hawks in Bozeman on Sept. 12.
“Bozeman is the No. 1 team in the state,” McNabb said. “To not allow them to score a goal for (50 minutes) and go a whole half — until that counter attack on the corner — to not give up a goal was a huge win for.”
McNabb praised the backrow play of Ally Cleverly, Lexie Kautzman and Kassidy Carlson. Kautzman played despite injuring a hamstring in the game.
“To contend with Bozeman’s front three like that and hold them to four goals is a huge win,” the coach said before turning his attention to his goalkeeper. “And Peyton Carver again. That was just so fun to watch and great to see. She’s a great goalie.”
Lexia Daunenhauer and Aspen Lovshin were also key to the Bulldog defense, while Justise Birkenbuel, Rylee Gonzales and Marti Ludwick helped Butte High go on the attack at times.
“They’re progressing,” McNabb said of the team that has just two seniors on the roster. “It’s going to keep growing into next year.”
Gonzales is the only senior to play for Butte High this season. Allison Collins blew out her knee playing in the summer.
Butte High (1-11), which lost promising freshman Christiana Beierle to a potential head injury, plans to build on its effort against the Hawks when they head to Great Falls High next week for a playoff match. The Bulldogs and Bison split in the regular-season series, with each team winning on the road.
A date for that match has not been announced. Butte High needs two playoff wins to qualify for the Class AA State tournament in Missoula.
“They’re already talking about Great Falls High,” McNabb said of his Bulldogs. “They’re excited about it. They want it. They beat us last time at home, and I think that’s still in the back of their mind.”