Following four very successful seasons at the helm, Celine Valentin recently stepped down as head coach of the girls soccer team at Belgrade.
Valentin is moving to Colorado in May to attend physical therapy school after applying and being accepted into multiple programs in February. She has already obtained a masters degree in exercise physiology.
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave the Gallatin Valley, Valentin noted, and bittersweet to step away from a program she invested so much time in to. It was even more difficult to inform returning players.
“I think that’s going to be the hardest part about leaving Bozeman. That program means so much to me,” said Valentin. “Just the personal relationships and the things we, meaning the entire team of coaches that have been able to be there, has been amazing and it’s been a really important growing opportunity for me as well. I loved that job, I really, really loved it. So to step away from that was really hard.”
Valentin guided the program to three postseason appearances, including reaching the state Class A semifinals in 2016 and 2018, and compiled a 27-19-7 record.
Prior to her arrival, Belgrade had endured three straight losing seasons had not made a postseason appearance since 2011. This past season the Panthers posted a 9-3-2 mark and lost on a late goal to Laurel in semifinals.
“I’m very proud of the Belgrade High School girls soccer program. Coaching at Belgrade has been an incredible experience over the last four years, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I’m most proud of watching the young women in the program mature and develop as people and athletes,” said Valentin. “I’m very grateful for the help of (Belgrade Activities Director) Rick Phillips, (coaches) Ric Plante, Carl Bridwell, Austin Brown, and the countless volunteers who have helped the program grow into a consistent and high-performing contender.”
While Valentin is stepping away from the girls program, Jeffrey DeBuse was recently hired as the new head boys coach. DeBuse replaces Plante, who who retired after 15 years at the helm.
DeBuse, a former All-State midfielder, played for Plante from 2013-16 and helped the Panthers win the first state championship in program history in 2016. Belgrade also won the title in 2017 to cap a stretch of four consecutive finals appearances.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve been around the program for a lot of my life with both of my brothers (Bill and Tyler) playing as well,” said DeBuse. “So I feel like I’m well suited. I know the program very well and I’m excited to still be a part of it.”
Plante had coached the program for 15 of it’s 16 years of existence and compiled a 100-76-18 record. While technically listed as the head coach during a 9-2-3 campaign this past season, Plante groomed DeBuse to step in as his replacement.
“He told me I was pretty much in charge of the team this year and he was just kind of there for guidance and help me when he could. Obviously it was super helpful when he was a around,” said DeBuse. “And when he did take off for a couple weeks and it was just me, he just said just do what you need to do. He had faith in me to keep everything up to standards. It was a lot of learning experiences last year, but I definitely got a lot out of it.”
Belgrade reached the state semifinals in each of the past six seasons, but the program moves up to Class AA beginning this fall.
“It’s definitely a huge step up. The quality of play is a lot higher and it’s something that we’re going to have to adjust to,” said DeBuse. “I think moving forward, at least in this next year, we’re just really going to have to take it game by game and learn as much as we can while still learning to grow as a team. But I’m really excited for it because it’s the highest level soccer we can be playing in Montana, so I’m glad to be a part of it.”
At 19 (he’ll be 20 in the fall), DeBuse is likely the youngest head coach in any sport in the state. He’ll juggle attending classes at Montana State University while coaching soccer, but is excited about the challenge.
“Ric Plante had faith in me kind of taking over the program and Rick Phillips really believes in me, which is nice,” said DeBuse. “All the other coaches are quite a bit older than me, but my age really shouldn’t matter. It should about how well I do and how well I can get the team to do. I can look to other coaches for guidance and advice, but at the end of the day it’s up to me to prove what I can do regardless of my age.”