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Superior soccer standout Matt Bouvine adapts to new position

Superior boys soccer coach Aaron Ashley needed star player Matt Bouvine to make a sacrifice. Earlier this season, Ashley asked the 17-year-old senior to give up the scoring spotlight at forward and move to midfield in an attempt to stop the disma...

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Superior boys soccer coach Aaron Ashley needed star player Matt Bouvine to make a sacrifice.

Earlier this season, Ashley asked the 17-year-old senior to give up the scoring spotlight at forward and move to midfield in an attempt to stop the dismal 0-4 start where Superior was outscored 29-2. Bouvine was willing.

"[Bouvine] has played forward until this year, but he has adapted to the new position and taken the challenge on," Ashley said. "From his perspective, it's not about him. It's about team and he has found success from there, which is great."

The slide has subsided as the Spartans have won seven of their last11 games, while Bouvine's point production has increased slightly compared to last year. Through 15 games this season, Bouvine has 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points (1.3 points per game). In 22 games last year, Bouvine had 20 goals and seven assists for 27 points and a 1.2 average.

"I want to help develop this team," Bouvine said. "I ask myself, 'Who is coming back next year?' I want to get them the ball where they can make plays."

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Bouvine went from forward, where scoring is the top job skill, to midfield, where the workload is split between defense, ball control and setting up teammates for the majority of scoring opportunities.

To start the season, Ashley had senior Jake Albrecht at midfield but moved him to defense to shore up another weakness. At midfield, Bouvine has teamed with Brent Engstrom. The duo has fed scoring opportunities to juniors Chris Peterson, who has nine goals in nine games, and Pat Dalbec, who registered a hat trick Sept. 18 against Duluth Central.

"We had to move [Bouvine] back because if the ball never gets up [to the forwards], it's a wasted player up there," Ashley said. "We needed an experienced player [at midfield]. I think [Bouvine and Engstrom] have done a good job of feeding those guys up front ... [Bouvine] is having a year where he found that he can score from further back. He is equally proud that he has nearly as many assists as goals."

Bouvine was a high-scoring freshman on Superior's junior varsity squad, but his development was slowed by a groin injury that kept him on junior varsity as a sophomore.

"I turned to [then-assistant coach Sam Buchs] and asked, 'What happened to the fire?'" Ashley said of Bouvine's slip. "We didn't know about his injury at the time, but I think it helped him to stay at JV that year. He really developed as a leader. He learned to not just take playing for granted."

Bouvine hid his injury from Ashley so he could continue to play.

"Coaches thought I was dogging it," said Bouvine, who is playing through a hip injury this season. "I didn't want to tell them I was hurt. I hate sitting out, and I tried to play through it."

In his junior campaign, Bouvine regained his high level of play and was named to the Lake Superior all-conference team.

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"Last year, he was very opportunistic," Ashley said. "A lot of his goals were rebounds, second chances. This year, he is starting the plays. He sees chances as they develop and learned to distribute and see the field as a whole instead of the attacking half."

But Ashley said Bouvine needs to improve his play against stronger teams if Superior (7-8 overall, 2-4 LSC) hopes to move to the top half of the conference.

"Matt's greatest weakness is that he needs to step up in big games," Ashley said. "He does well against even or slightly worse opponents, but that is the challenge for him -- big games. I don't know if it is mental or what."

In Ashley's four-year tenure, only Dustin James, a freshman at St. Scholastica, has moved on to play soccer in college. Bouvine could be the next.

"That option of playing at the next level is starting to open up for Superior players," said Ashley, whose program has doubled in participation since 2004. "... Matt definitely has the ability for that."

Bouvine has collegiate athletic hopes, but it involves football.

"The [Superior] football team learned I can kick field goals, and they wanted me to come out [for the team]," said Bouvine, who has kicked a 50-yarder. "I just can't desert my [soccer] team."

Instead, that change will wait until next year as he hopes to walk on and kick for the Minnesota Duluth football team.

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ANDY GREDER covers high school soccer for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5315 or by e-mail at agreder@duluthnews.com .

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