Preseason rankings and high expectations are to be expected for a soccer program like Butler’s. Head coach Adam Hunter enters his 12th season with six national tournament appearances and six conference titles under his belt. Hunter has led the Grizzlies to 236 victories, which ranks him fourth in the NJCAA among active coaches.
This season, the Grizzlies will find out what they’re made of early on as three of their first four matches will be against teams ranked in the top 13. Butler’s tough schedule is no accident, as Hunter wants to see how his team looks against some of the best junior college players in the nation.
“We want to identify what weaknesses we have and also strengths we can capitalize on,” said Hunter.
Butler could benefit greatly from this tough schedule due to a rule change that will come into effect this postseason. Starting this year, the NJCAA will select four at-large bids for the national tournament. This means that if Butler does not make it out of the regional tournament, they could still qualify for the national tournament if their resume is impressive enough.
The Grizzlies will face No. 9 Iowa Western, No. 1 Tyler, and No. 13 Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa in the first week of their season.
Several key players will return from last season and add experience to the Grizzlies roster. Zion DeWerff leads all returners in goals scored (8) and assists (5). DeWerff played in 17 games last season and started eight of them. Melonie Baca started 16 games as a freshman last season and finished with four goals and three assists. Aylin Torres started 12 games last season and added two goals and two assists. Kaylee Swanson started 10 games for the Grizzlies last season and will add experience to the Grizzly defense. Erin Akin played in 16 games last season and scored 5 goals and added an assist in her first season as a Grizzly. Alexis Palmer played in 14 games and scored three times and finished with three assists. Sierra Salsman also played in over half of the games last season and started five.
In addition to these returners, Adam Hunter believes that several newcomers are poised to have a solid freshman season. According to Hunter, Tessa Irvine, a freshman from Manhattan, had a solid camp and will likely be a key player in the centerfield for the Grizzlies this fall in her freshman season. Hunter has also been impressed with sophomore transfer Bethany Reeves. Reeves played one season as goalkeeper at Emporia State before transferring to Butler. The Grizzlies also have two athletes from Sweden, Elise Leidersten and Sandra Thiman, who will likely play a large role in the success of the team this season.