Sometimes it’s not about how good a player currently is, but what a coach projects that player can become. For Ninety Six soccer coach Torey Riser, that’s the approach he’s taking with goalkeeper Jordan Butler.
Butler is just a freshman, who is raw on talent but high on upside.
“She’s definitely an athlete,” said Ninety Six boys soccer coach Ben Brown while watching her play against a dominant Brashier Middle College team.
But being an athlete doesn’t always mean a player is good. Nonetheless, it's a great tool to have in any sport, which is part of the reason Riser and assistant coach Archie Ferqueron decided to take a chance on the young player.
“She’s adjusted really good,” Ferqueron said. “I just see a natural talent in her. I told her if she sticks with this for four years, this will be her new passion.”
“It’s different being here,” Butler said. “There’s a lot of talented people, so it was kind of intimidating at first."
Ferqueron works specifically with the goalkeepers and said Butler will have some huge shoes to fill after the team lost its last two goalkeepers, Austin Hough and MacKenzie Latham, the past two seasons.
But Butler, whose main sport is volleyball, is said to have not just the physical capabilities, but also the mental toughness to be able to take on such a huge role.
“Her attitude is wonderful,” Riser said. “You think you’re going to be a goalkeeper your first year, you’re going to make those first-time mistakes, you’re not going to have those natural instincts when to go to the ball. But her head never goes down.”
Butler never getting down is a valuable trait of hers. Brashier Middle College is one of the better teams Ninety Six will face, and they showed why by handing the Wildcats an 8-1 loss.
That didn’t change the attitude of Butler despite giving up that many goals. She challenged her opponent until the end of regulation. And afterward she maintained a smile, already thinking about the next play.
“She very much has a short-term memory, which is a wonderful thing for athletes to have,” Riser said.
Riser and Ferqueron are hoping that this experience of playing and starting on varsity at such a young age can help turn Butler into a star for this team.
But she’s a project, and the bumps and bruises might come in heavy doses this season. Still, the club believes it will all be worth it once her high school career is finished.
“The greatest goal would obviously be able to offer her a route to college where she can further her education, continue playing soccer,” Riser said. “If she develops into being a top athlete, we’re always looking to push (her) on.”
Contact staff writer Julian McWilliams at 864-223-1814 or on Twitter @JulianMack105