For most of his coaching career, Butch Babler’s sport has been soccer — and it still is. But he’s developed a national reputation as a field hockey coach, too. Babler, who coaches both sports at Mercy High School, was named the Regional Development Manager for the Great Lakes Region by USA Field Hockey.
The appointment was made last week. The region includes the Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The similarities between the sports has helped Babler to coach both. This is his fifth year of field hockey.
Like soccer, a field hockey lineup consists of 10 field players and a goalie.
“That’s why the transition has been pretty smooth,” Babler said, recalling a clinic he attended in which he was the only high school coach. “By the end, when we were talking tactics, they were asking, ‘How would you do this and do that?’
“Field hockey is becoming a lot more creative like soccer. It used to be you’d do a-b-c. Now you want players thinking on the field and being creative. There’s a good symbiosis between the two.
“Field hockey is similar to what you do in soccer. You make sure you have a strong defense and build everything from there.”
Unlike soccer, the substitution process is much different and easier to do.
“You can sub on the fly,” Babler said. “Almost everyone we carry plays pretty good minutes. Maddie (McClean), Ali (Shrader) and Margaret (Reaume) play a majority of the game, and the rest go in and out.
“You can do a lot more situational subbing. In soccer, you can send somebody up to the sideline, and they’ll be standing there for 10 minutes.
“In soccer, you’re looking 10 minutes ahead; in field hockey, you kinda play it at the moment.”
The Marlins are 5-2 this season, following victories Tuesday and Thursday over Detroit Country Day (4-0) and over Saline (1-0), respectively.
Mercy also has wins over Cranbrook Kingswood, Sacred Heart and Regina. The losses were to Ladywood (1-0) and Marian (3-1).
“We’ve played pretty well,” Babler said, adding the Marlins had a letdown against Marian. “I think sometimes we get a little too excited when we play Marian.
“Other than that, they’ve done what’s been expected. There have been some nice surprises.”
There is no Catholic league in field hockey, but the CHSL will have a four-team tournament Saturday, Oct. 8, at Ladywood.
The 25 schools in Michigan that have teams will compete in one post-season state tournament. Seedings are based on a point system. Mercy lost in the quarterfinals last year to Ann Arbor Pioneer.
In the regular season, teams also compete for one of four division titles. Mercy and Sacred Heart are D-2, Ladywood and Marian D-1, Cranbrook D-3 and Regina D-4.
“I think we have a pretty good shot at Division 2,” Babler said. “That’s the goal because, if you win Division 2, you move up to Division 1.”
One of Mercy’s top players and its leading scorer is junior forward Maddie McClean, who has eight goals and five assists through seven games. She had two of each in the wins last week.
McClean competed in the AAU Junior Olympics this summer in New Orleans. Babler calls her “the Jordan Mueller of field hockey,” a reference to the former Mercy all-state soccer star who plays at Michigan State.
Babler added the Marlins had a lot of quality players coming back this season, including seniors Ally Shrader, Christine LaRoue, Katie Arthur (who scored the goal in the Saline game), Margaret Smith and Clarissa LeVasseur and juniors Taylor Shrader, Jessie LaRoue, Katie Coerdt, Morgan DeBrincat and Margaret Reaume.
The Shrader sisters, DeBrincat and Reaume are midfielders; the LaRoue cousins and Coerdt play defense; Arthur and Smith are forwards, and LeVasseur is the starting goalie.
Junior midfielder Ali Hines also is playing field hockey again after a year away to focus on academics.
Sophomore Dana DeFrain and freshman Kelsey Moore are new forwards who are making a contribution this year. Arthur and DeFrain also scored goals Tuesday.
“It’s unusual for us to have a freshman with the varsity, but (Moore has) come up and scored three goals now,” Babler said. “She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. I think she’s going to be a good player down the road.”
New to the varsity are senior defender Audrey Cords, senior midfielder Meg Spenchian and seven juniors — forwards Jordan Zurke and Nicollette Naser, mids Maria Walawender and Maria Tluszczynski, defenders Taylor Czinder and Mary Kate Winn and goalie Sarah Schrimscher.