By Bruce Sayler
The Butte High girls playing soccer are learning about battling adversity. They’re putting up a fight. It isn’t easy.
The Bulldogs lost their third 10-0 game Thursday when they fell to Helena High at the Jeremy Bullock Memorial Soccer Fields in a Western AA Conference tilt. The 0-4 Butte High girls were coming off a 7-1 loss suffered at Helena Capital on Tuesday.
Already short on numbers, so much so that no subvarsity teams can be fielded, Butte High played without two more players. One left the team. Another, Haley Carver, is out for an extended time with an injury.
“Our bench got a little shorter,” Steve Shahan, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “Those two had been playing significant minutes for us.
“But the next girls in line stepped up and gave us really good minutes. (Freshman) Jozi Daugherty just started playing soccer last spring, but she’s learning fast and gave us some good defensive minutes. (Sophomore) Taryn Gilboy stepped in there and gave our forwards some good rest and put good pressure on the Helena defenders.”
Helena High was the state Class AA runner-up last year and rostered 12 seniors on its full roster this fall. However, it was a sophomore, 5-foot-4 forward Avery Kraft, who dominated the highlight reel against Butte High. She scored four goals and dished an assist. All were tallied in the first half when the Bengals built an 8-0 advantage.
Senior Elsa Grebenc scored two first-half goals, and Camryn Mossness and Logan Todorovich each tallied one. Todorovich also dealt an assist in the half as did Madilyn Todorovich and Rachael Plaster.
Kaiya Newby notched one goal and passed deep to Mia Melton for another as the Bengals ended the match early on the 10-goal difference rule.
Shahan remained hopeful and positive.
“(The Bulldogs) are starting to buy into that small moments create big moments over the long run,” he said. “It’s starting to show. The first 20 minutes today was our best soccer this season. “
Helena High’s leads was only 2-0 the first 20 minutes.
Shahan said the play of his team’s defensive line and the all-out effort by goalkeeper Hayla Hoffman were among the day’s highlights.
“I don’t know how many saves Hayla had, but the ball was in her hands a lot,” the coach said. “Hayla is starting to read shots a lot better and she took some, well, scary, chances. She took one hard shot to the gut and then just punted the ball downfield.”
A runner-up at Montana’s first state Class AA high school girls’ wrestling tournament last winter, Hoffman had no qualms at diving into kicks and challenging attackers in front of the goal.
“That aggressiveness and toughness is how I envisioned her as a goalie,” Shahan said. “As her comfort level rises, she can be a really good player in the future.”
The Bulldogs have opened the season with losses to Missoula Hellgate, Missoula Big Sky and the “schools. All are considered contenders.
“They’re a great team with great senior leadership and some young talent,” Shahan said of the Helena High girls. “And, it’s a great program. It’s a winning tradition with high standards. If you don’t meet them, you won’t be around long in a program like that. Obviously, they have a lot of girls meeting those standards.”
Butte High has played four games in eight days in what has been a baptism of fire for the Bulldogs this season. They are now off until next Thursday when they are to play Kalispell Flathead at the Bullock fields. Butte High wil travel the following day to Kalispell to play Glacier High.