Cass' Lucky Thammavongsa (on the ball) battles with a Niles player for possession during Saturday's VanDenBerg Invitational. (Photo by AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)
Cass' Lucky Thammavongsa (on the ball) battles with a Niles player for possession during Saturday's VanDenBerg Invitational. (Photo by AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Archived Story

Rangers split at VanDenBerg Invitational

Published 1:23pm Wednesday, August 26, 2009

By STEVE MORRISON
Vigilant/Argus

NILES – “When it rains, it pours.” No other description could parallel the unseasonal conditions that typified Saturday’s annual VanDenBerg Invitational Soccer Tournament held at both Brandywine High School’s beautiful brand new soccer field and Niles High School.
Teams from Cassopolis, Niles, Brandywine and Buchanan squared off in the drizzle and chilly 60-degree temperature.

Buchanan’s Bucks came out on top, defeating Brandywine’s Bobcats 6-2 and squeezing by a young, determined Niles Viking squad 2-1, in the defensively dominated championship game.

In the first round, junior Ryan Catalano scored a trio of goals, while senior Richie Reed pounded in two, to lead the Buck scoring. Tony Payne and Marquis Tyler provided some adept ball handling and stealthy passing to assist in setting up the second half offensive surge.

The first half was a defensive battle between the Bucks and Bobcats. Catalano lit up the scoreboard first, connecting on a rebound on a ricochet from Payne’s hard slice, in the seventh minute.

Brandywine responded twelve minutes later. After several missed opportunities, the  Bobcats’ Matt Liebetrau rammed home a tying score on a swift pass from Elliot Richards. Jacob Weiger and Justin Palmer did some fine defensive work for Brandywine to hold off the Bucks.

It looked like a standoff until Payne broke away, down the right sideline to feed Reed for a Buchanan score (2-1) with 7:11 remaining in the half.

Both Weiger and Liebetrau barely missed scoring chances before intermission.

The Bobcats came out rejuvenated in the second half.

Weiger, Liebetrau and Jordan Hatch spearheaded the attack. Liebetrau tied it at 2-2 (25:51) on a rebound of Alex Humprey’s strike for the ‘Cats.

The Bobcats had seemed to regain momentum; Brian Exner’s long bomb was adeptly reflected by Buchanan keeper Steven VanAlstine.

Then it rained… Buchanan goals. Catalano broke away up the middle to place Buchanan ahead 3-2, on a sizzler past a helpless Bobcat keeper Jason Andrews. Less than four minutes later, Reed knocked home a breakaway shot.

Brent Brown contributed a score on a feed from Reed, two minutes later, and Catalano’s third tally ended the scoring 1:12 after that.

Meanwhile, the Niles Vikings had shown some firepower of their own, shutting out the Cassopolis Rangers 7-0, on their own turf.

The young Vikings, featuring only one senior, Chris Schuck and nine sophomores ran up a 4-0 halftime lead on two goals by Christian Rackley and one each by brothers Oldie and Gilberto Palafox.

Niles’ keeper, Derek Arguello had to make only two saves in the contest.

Derrick Nzabakira, Kassim Dafa, and Angel Magana each added a goal in the second half to seal the victory.

It looked to be a tight, even contest in the championship match-up, hosted at Niles High School. That proved to be the case.

In the championship finale, the defenses thwarted each other’s offenses, repetitively. The Bucks, led by Josh Dickey, Terry Lowery, Dylan Arnold and Catalano kept Niles at bay for most of the game.

Equally impressive, for Niles, were Devin Nyers, Cole Krassow, Pierce Knoll, Cicone Palamore, and Jacob Stanage.

Niles’ offense had several possibilities early in the first half. Jonathon Eddy missed wider and was stopped on a save by VanAlstine. Derrick Nzabakira and Christian Rackley missed shots and were stopped by VanAlstine on two more attempts.

Niles had more shots on goal than Buchanan (4-1). Buchanan’s only aerial on a corner kick by Payne, resulted in a header by Marquis Tyler that forced Niles’ keeper, Arguello, over the goal line and accounted for a 1-0 Buchanan lead, after 11:19,that carried into halftime.

At 43:50 a free kick was awarded to Ryan Catalano of the Bucks, due to elbowing by the Vikings. His shot was rebounded into the net by Brent Brown for a 2-0 Buck advantage.
Despite keeping the ball on offense, the Vikings shots on goal proved fruitless, until Cicone Palamore scored in the 55th minute. A frenzy of Viking shots were deflected and turned away by VanAlstine the ensuing final moments. Buchanan held on to secure the win and the traveling trophy.

“It was real close; it was even play, the whole game,” Bucks’ coach Brian Pruett assessed after the match. “The 2-1 score shows it. Niles had four, five chances, in the final moments, to win the game. Our team realized what they had to do, and they fought Niles off. I give Niles all the credit; they gave us everything they had, until the end. In the end our defense held up.”

“We wanted to be competitive, to be around, at the end of the game. We controlled the ball as much as anybody. That’s where we want to be,” Jerry Holtgren, Niles’ coach, summarized. “It was a good game. The chips didn’t fall just quite Niles’ way.”

In the consolation match between Cass and Brandywine, the Rangers pulled out a 1-0 triumph. Andy File knocked home the winning goal off of a corner kick by Blaise Suseland, in the 15th minute.

“Our defense took control,” Rangers coach Olie Olafsson said.

Olaffson commented how fine the new Brandywine soccer facility held up despite the constant precipitation. He was extremely pleased with his defensive starters: Lucky Thammavongsa, Suseland, George Samadder, and Agust Olafsson.

Niles…7
Cassopolis…0

First half
(N) Christian Rackley
(N) Oldie Palafox
(N) Rackley
(N) Gilberto Palafox
Second half
(N) Derrick Nzabakira
(N) Kassim Dafa
(N) Angel Magana
Shots on Goal: Niles 18; Cassopolis 2
Saves: Niles Arguello 2; Cass 11 (3 keepers)
Cassopolis…1
Brandywine…0

Scoring
(C) Andy File, (Blaise Suseland assist)
Shots on goal: Brandywine 11; Cassopolis 9
Saves: Cass, John Simpson 11; Brandywine, Jason Andrews 8

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