BAYFIELD – After a rocky start to open the 2019 season in which the Wolverines lost four out of their first five games amidst formation changes and shuffling of the roster, Halle Loveday’s return to the field has steadied the Bayfield High School girls soccer team.
BHS (5-4, 3-1 3A Intermountain League) is in the midst of a four-game winning streak, the sophomore has been instrumental in the turnaround. She’s done it while playing through a separated shoulder that requires her to wear a brace and seek physical therapy.
“Halle did not play in two of our losses, so while her point total is good to see, more than anything her presence on the field has really helped us,” said BHS head coach Jen Moore. “The girls know she’s talented, and she’s probably one of the most talented athletes that I’ve ever coached. She’s so athletic, knows the game and then her presence; she’s got that quiet leadership presence, and I think we’re more confident with her back there and can trust her in the back.”
During Bayfield’s four-game winning streak, Loveday, a central defender, has shown her offensive prowess and has had a point-streak going, as she has either scored or assisted in all four games. She’s doing it all with the bulky shoulder brace.
Loveday’s injury worsened off the field. She separated it for the third time since October during a scene in the opening weekend of the school musical “Matilda,” and she was able to finish out both the scene and production that night before she went to the hospital where she had it popped back into place.
“Once I realized that I could play, even with a brace, there was never a doubt that I’d come back,” Loveday said. “I have a little trouble from time to time just being in certain positions. There’s a small tear in my labrum, so moving it a certain way hurts, but during the games, I’m a lot more focused on what’s happening on the field rather than a nagging pain.”
Loveday, daughter of Ned Cooper and Elizabeth Howey, originally started out at central midfielder in Moore’s new 4-5-1 formation she introduced at the start of the season, but Moore quickly returned to soccer’s staple line up, the 4-4-2. Loveday’s position on the field shifted and she was moved to her role as a defender.
“She was there and she had a presence in the midfield but it was like we couldn’t get her the ball, and I was like, ‘I can’t have a player this good not be getting touches with the ball,’” Moore said. “When we switched back to the 4-4-2, she was so solid for us in the back. I know she wants to play up, she wants to score, but right now she fits into our puzzle best right there.
“We’re trying to build our offense a bit and are trying to get her more involved not only in our defense but to be able to move her up to have a more aggressive offensive tactic.”
Loveday was a fan of the move because, in addition to making runs up the field, she can see the game developing around her.
“I trust my back line a lot, and even though we’re all young, they’re experienced, so if I go forward, they’ll be able to cover for me,” Loveday said. “But I honestly like defense a lot this year because coach is letting me attack. It helps to see the whole field, and I like knowing what’s happening around me, so it’s a good mix.”
The tactic worked to perfection when Loveday delivered the game-tying assist against Montezuma-Cortez on Friday. She delivered in an in-swinging corner kick, and Madison Oltmanns headed home the goal. It was Loveday’s second assist from a set piece this season.
“I love taking set pieces. It’s something we’ve been working on a lot, and we’ve been pretty good at it this year,” Loveday said. “I also take free kicks and love ripping the heck out of the ball, it’s a blast.”
Bayfield will look to continue its winning streak Wednesday at Ignacio (1-9, 1-6 Class 2A Region 4) at 5 p.m. at IHS. Loveday is ready to go for the second half of the season, shoulder brace and all.
“I have to wear the brace whenever I play, and coach joked that my brace is more important than my cleats,” she said. “If I don’t have the brace, I can’t play. But I’m good with that, and it’s worth it in order to keep playing. ... Moving forward, we’ve put things into high gear and I can’t wait to keep it at that pace.”