As my first post of 2010, one would assume that I would be quick to talk about the Final Four and Butler Basketball's run to the national championship game last March. Although I will surely touch that subject soon, I am fairly confident that topic has already been talked about. Instead, I will use this post to bring to everyone's attention another potential Final Four appearance and the success of Butler's Fall Sports teams.
For those of you who have not heard, Butler Men's and Women's Cross Country, Women's Soccer, and Men's soccer have all claimed Horizon Regular Season Titles already. The Men's Soccer team has not even played its last regular season game (Senior Night.. well morning.. is at 10:00am on Friday) and clinched the league with an undefeated record of 15-0-1. For those who do not follow soccer closely, that is 15 wins, 0 losses, and 1 tie. There is only one other team in the country that can claim a similar record and that is Louisville (who has tied twice and actually lost an exhibition game to Penn State).
All of this Fall success is worthy of its own novel, much less a measly blog with 6 followers, but wait I am not done. The volleyball team is currently 2nd in the Horizon with an 11-1 conference record and plays first place Milwaukee Nov. 6th at 4:00pm in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Could Volleyball be the 5th Butler sport to claim a fall sports title? The McCafferty Trophy might be on its way to Indianapolis before Christmas break.
The Butler Bowl will be a busy place the next few weeks with both the Women and Men's Soccer Horizon League Tournament. As previously mentioned, the men still have one more regular season game before the Horizon League Tournament and it comes with some added hype. Butler faces a Cleveland State team that not only beat Butler last year 1-0, but is also coming off of a recent 2-1 upset over #1 ranked Akron. Although this game promises to be a dandy, it is unfortunate that not many fans will be able to watch it. The game time is scheduled for 10:00am on Friday morning due to a conflict with the Women's Horizon League Tournament game at 3:30pm. It would be so much easier if Butler just wasn't so good at sports.
Sports, as we all know, is not where it stops at Butler though. Joining Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward with Academic All-American recognition is Senior soccer star Conner Burt from Elkhart, Indiana. Burt has started every game this year for the Bulldogs and has been a vital component to the team's success. When I thought of updating this blog, I knew that hearing from Conner would be the icing on the cake.
The interview follows:
Me: First, I would like to congratulate you on your Academic All-American recognition. How have you been able to balance your school work with your athletic responsibilities? Without going too cliche on you - what does the Butler Way mean to you
Conner: I think the Butler Way is simply being excellent in all facets of your life. As a student at Butler goes through their four years, they learn a lot about who they are, what drives them, and how they ought to be a beneficial member of society--I think the The Butler Way facilitates this process and sets a foundation for future success. My individual success is simply a result of setting goals, not being complacent, and always putting forth excellent work--be it soccer or school.
Me: Butler currently is ranked #3 and #6 in two separate polls this week, how does that ranking speak to the hard work that the team has put forth during the off-season?
Conner: To be honest, the rankings are nice, but are just a snapshot of what's going on behind the scenes. As a senior, we've worked day in day out to arrive where we are now...certainly that does not come easy and a ranking in a particular week can't capture what we've put in to get to this point. I guess at the end of the day, we're going to remember all the work we put in and the trophies we raised, not our top 10 ranking for a few weeks throughout a season.
Me: When the season began was there any indication that the team had top ten talent? And more importantly did anyone think you could still be undefeated going into the last regular season game of the year?
Conner: I certainly think there was belief coming into this season. As opposed to past years, we feel like we can play and compete with any team in the country. If you look at our past two seasons (13-3,13-2 records)...we're a gritty team that doesn't like to loose. This difference this season is that we believe in each other and have confidence that we'll get a result every game. At the same time though, you don't look at a season and get ahead of yourself. We take each training session as an opportunity to get better and play the game we love, and don't take things for granted. Really the only thing we worry about is our next game and what we need to do to prepare.
Me: Lets talk about IU. Last year saw Butler getting an unfavorable draw in the NCAA tournament playing an IU team that you had already played (and beaten) in Bloomington. Was this years 4-1 thrashing pay-back?
Conner: I don't think it was necessarily a payback. As freshman, we all set a goal that by the end of our careers, we'd beat Indiana two years in a row. At the time, this was lofty, considering we hadn't beaten them in 10+ years. We all went into the game knowing the implications: we had been ranked fairly high so far throughout the season, and a lot of people considered this our first "real test" (which is not necessarily the case because our league games have all been tough, as have some other games like Loyola Maramount) and so I think the guys felt like we had something to prove. Not to mention as a soccer player from Indiana, you grow up hearing about the prestige and success of IU's program--and rightfully so. But as we've shown the past two years, we've built a program to be proud of.
Me: You have scored some crucial goals throughout your Butler career - a few game winners. How does it feel to score that last-minute goal to earn a victory for the team?
Conner: I tell you, its what you play the game for. When it's overtime, golden goal--its really about who has more guts. And as we've shown all season, we're determined to get results for 120 minutes. Scoring the goal is great -- and this season, our celebrations have really gotten a lot more elaborate (which makes it even better). In the end though, whether I get the game winner or its someone else, you always feel great that you got a result as a team.
Me: Cleveland State (your final test of the season) took down #1 ranked Akron last week. CSU has been a tough outing for you guys in the past - how do you overcome a team like CSU?
Conner: CSU is always a tough to play against. They're a quality team--and them beating AKRON is a testament to the quality and parody within our League...even though we don't get very much respect. At the end of the day, we treat each game similar, and focus on what we do well. Its what has gotten us to this point, and will continue throughout the season.
Me: Regardless of the result on Friday, you have already clinched the Regular Season Title and home field advantage for the Horizon League Tournament. What can we expect for the post season? Is a national championship out of reach?
Conner: First our sights are set on the Horizon League Tournament. Its one thing we've not conquered since I've been here, and is our primary focus right now. As for the NCAA's...I think we've got a bigger perspective this year. Last year, we were happy to be there and excited to get an bid. Since last season ended, I think there's been a bit of a bitter taste in our mouth. Now that we know what its like and are more experienced, everyone knows that this season could be something special. But you can't get to the National Championship without winning in the first round. So that's where our focus is.
Me: I appreciate your time and want to end this brief interview with some rapid fire one-two word responses.
1. What is next for Conner Burt?
2. If you had to compare yourself with a professional soccer player who would it be?
Conner: John Terry (minus his personal life ha)
3. Funniest teammate?
Conner: Blake Lyden
4. Who would win in a number crunching battle - you or Matt Howard?
Conner: Depends on who has a mustache at the tim
5. What do you do when you aren't studying or playing soccer?
Conner: Fly Fish
6. Favorite food?
Conner: Right now--Freelance Whales or AudioDax