The girls soccer team at Buchanan High School wanted — and needed — to become more dangerous this season.
Dangerous as in putting the ball in the net.
“Last year we did a good job of possessing the ball, and we were solid. But we didn’t score goals,” head coach Kevin Botterill said recently.
The Bears scored only 13 goals in the 2015-16 season, but they already have 51 goals this season (through Feb. 1).
“We definitely made a change for the better in that respect,” Botterill said.
The 2016-17 season is something of a new start for girls soccer at Buchanan. Coaches and players made adjustments after experiencing rare failure in a storied program.
So far, the new start is going well.
The Bears had an overall record of 14-4-3 record through Feb. 1 and were atop the Tri-River Athletic Conference at 7-1, having clinched at least a tie for the league championship. Playoff games leading to the Central Section’s Division I championship are scheduled to begin the second week of February, and Botterill expects Buchanan to receive a high seeding.
Winning that Division I championship is a Buchanan tradition. The Bears have claimed the title 10 times since 1996, including a five-year run from 2006-10 and a four-year run from 2012-15.
Botterill believes that Buchanan is once again positioned to win the Division I title. “The pressure I feel is to do the best that I can to get every ounce of potential from the players,” he said.
Last season, Buchanan fell short, having graduated eight starters from the previous season, with only three starters returning. The Bears won only two TRAC games and exited the playoffs in the second round. Their overall record was 9-11-2.
“Last year was definitely a big disappointment, results wise, for everybody,” said Botterill, who took over the program in 2015-16. “But it also wiped the slate clean.”
The 2015-16 team bore the pressure of winning the Division I title or feeling it had failed, Botterill said. “Well, we got that failure out of the way. We’re able to create a new legacy now.”
He started that process by adjusting his players’ formation on the field. Buchanan went from employing four defenders, five midfielders and one forward to playing three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards.
“Our players can now take more chances on less than ideal fields,” he said. “We traded possession time and being solid in the back with being able to take more chances and score more goals.”
If finding the right formation is the science of coaching, there’s also an art to the coach’s job, Botterill said. It involves dealing with adolescent psychology.
“As you might expect with high school age players, we’re not going to play our ‘A game’ every day, and we have to learn how to still be effective when things aren’t going our way,” Botterill said.
He and his assistants have challenged their players to monitor their own psychology going into games.
Are they too relaxed? Are they too amped up? Some use music to increase their intensity, while others employ basic relaxation techniques taught by the coaches to achieve a calmer presence.
When Buchanan hired Botterill in 2015 to replace Orlando Ramirez, athletic director James Gambrell praised Botterill “as one of the best female club coaches in our area, if not the best.”
Ironically, Botterill grew up in England believing he was going to coach men when his playing days were over. He coached men at Wesley College in Delaware and at Murray State University in Kentucky, where he earned a master’s degree in education. Botterill’s bachelor’s degree is in applied physics from Durham University in England.
He coached both women and men at Oakland City University in Indiana. After those experiences, he decided he preferred working with women because they are generally more receptive to his style of coaching. He sees himself as a teacher.
“This is a broad generalization, but male players feel they’re already good and already know the things they need to know,” Botterill said. “Girls typically come in . . . and want to learn and want to listen to what you have to say.”
Botterill also served for four years as an assistant on the Fresno State women’s team, working primarily with goalkeepers but also helping with recruiting and scouting.
His day job is director of coaching for the CenCal Cosmos Soccer Club. It has 31 teams and 400 players (boys and girls) from ages 4 to 18.
Botterill’s philosophy at Buchanan focuses on the value of every player.
“Some play more and some less. Some get to score the goals and make the assists. And some get to do the dirty work that nobody sees,” he said.
“Maybe they only play five minutes in a game. But they are a huge part of the program. It’s their effort at practice that pushes the kid ahead of them to achieve what they achieve.”
Alyssa Aaron, senior
Haley Barsotti, sophomore
Jaden Belcher, junior
Joey Belcher, junior
Kyndel Borman, junior
Hannah Bragg, freshman
Makenna Davis, junior
Alex George, senior
Taylor Gonzalez, senior
Maddie Hernandez, sophomore
NonaLisa Lederach, senior
Ashley Lundholm, sophomore
Alexa Marchini, junior
Erika Montano, junior
Melia Newberry, sophomore
Kristiana Pagani, senior
Tarin Sandwick, freshman
Jessica Seeto, senior
Vanessa Torres senior
Giselle Uribe, freshman
Kendall Veatch, sophomore
Sydney Wallace, senior
Mia Williams, sophomore
Leslie Zepeda, sophomore