Grizzlies return to the pitch just 10-weeks after National Tournament appearance

Grizzlies return to the pitch just 10-weeks after National Tournament appearance

With just 77 days between the conclusion of the 2020-21 season and the start of the Fall 2021 season, the Butler Soccer team is back and ready to defend their Region VI title.

"The players are excited to be back and try to build off of last year's successful end to the season," said head coach Adam Hunter now in his 15th season with the Grizzlies. "For the coaching staff, it was a short summer, but I know that the sophomore class is really glad to be back, they're excited about the new players and the first game is around the corner."

Checking in at No. 11 in the NJCAA Preseason ranking, the Grizzlies open the season playing host to the No. 1-ranked Apaches of Tyler Junior College (TX), who have won the last two NJCAA Div. I National Championships. They follow that up with four other teams ranked inside the NJCAA top-20 on the schedule early in Seminole State (OK), Rose State College (OK), Laramie (WY) and Casper College (WY).

"The schedule is loaded with ranked teams," commented Hunter. "With Tyler coming in here as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, I think we're going to learn about ourselves pretty quick and where we may line up in the national conversation, but it's definitely not going to be a game that defines the season, whether we win or lose.

The Grizzlies are 2-6-1 in all-time matchups with the Tyler Apaches never having defeated Tyler in the state of Texas and with that, Tyler has never defeated the Grizzlies in the state of Kansas.

"We're definitely looking forward to the challenge," added Hunter on the strength of his preseason schedule. "Rose State is probably as good as they've ever been and Seminole State just missed the Final Four, I think, by penalty kicks last year. We're going to know a lot about ourselves after the first few games and hopefully, regardless of those results, we come out of the early season games, knowing that we're ready to make a run in our conference championship and try to win the region." 

The Grizzlies have won 11 KJCCC championships, eight Region VI titles and have made eight NJCAA National Tournament appearances with two final fours and hope to add to the list this season.

"I am really excited about this group," said Hunter. "We have a strong group of returners with a few that had some post season accolades last year in Ellie MacDonald, Natalie Amaya and Iyanla Bailey Williams but we added to our depth with the incoming freshman class and some transfers which is where we struggled last season." 

On top of the nine returners and two transfers, Butler brings in a freshman class of 14 players that were all heavily decorated at the high school level in regard to the accolades they received during their high school careers. 

"On paper we have a lot of quality players who've received a lot of accolades and awards in their high school careers," commented Hunter. "You know you've got the two kids from circle Brooklyn Hunter and Carson Soto who put up monster numbers, so you'd like to think that can translate to the college game. Yossi Villagrana in the midfield, who is an All-Metro kid for East during her high school career and we are excited about Megan Wingsutton from England. She was supposed to be here last year, but COVID didn't allow her to travel. She was a highly touted international kid for our team in 2020, but now she's here in 2021 and she looks like she's going to be a playmaker and a creator for us. Our goalkeeper Kyra Klumpp comes in with some high praise and a lot of accolades and is very athletic and bouncy. We have a really good freshman class and I hate to leave some out because they can all play."

Hunter and the Grizzlies will look to their depth this season to wear down opponents and keep the game at high pace that teams will have to contend with. This freshman class appears to be one of the deepest in-state classes that coach Hunter has put together in his 15 years at Butler.

In the mix of new freshman faces on roster, a familiar name in Brooklyn Hunter, the daughter of head coach Adam Hunter will compete for minutes this season.

"Yeah, it's an interesting dynamic already," said Hunter about coaching his daughter. "The atmosphere here is more professional than the prep or club level, because these kids are on scholarships. They've come from different places in the world, different places in the state different places in the country, all to achieve something and being certain that she doesn't get any free passes, I think is important for me."

Hunter is familiar in coaching his daughter as he has done so several years at the club level and is excited that she chose Butler to continue her playing career.

"I love coaching my own kid," Hunter said. "I think that she really enjoys me coaching her because she had plenty of other opportunities to go elsewhere and ultimately, she said that she wanted to continue to play for Dad. One of the things she said, which I think is awesome and not very many players are probably ever going to say this, but she wanted to be a Grizzly since a middle schooler. She didn't tell me that until after she committed and I think that we're not always so fortunate to have kids who play for us who we were a destination school for them, so young. Most kids are like, well I want to go to this NCAA school or that NCAA school and in her mind, it was like why would I not want to be a Grizzly for my dad and so for me, that's pretty cool."

Adam, Brooklyn and the rest of the Grizzlies will begin the hunt for their 12th KJCCC Championship and will look to defend their Region VI title this year with the season starting on Friday, August 21 at 4:00pm against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. 

"Going on the journey with a new group of kids and seeing them achieve the goals that they set out to achieve is probably the most rewarding thing in coaching. Seeing your team try to accomplish something together and then when they actually do it, the gratification is something you never forget. That's what I'm looking forward to for these kids, achieving the goals that they're going to set out to achieve and doing it together."