Niles wins VanDenBerg InvitationalPublished 2:23pm Sunday, August 19, 2012
Ryan Casey embarked Saturday on what will be an extremely busy couple of months as a two-sport athlete at Niles High School.
The Vikings’ senior goalkeeper recorded a pair of shutouts Saturday to help lead Niles to a championship in the four-team VanDenBerg Tournament. Following a 7-0 win over Cassopolis in the morning semifinal, the Vikings bounced Buchanan, 3-0, in the title match.
Sunday, Casey will return to football practice, where he will continue his preparation to occupy positions as a linebacker and placekicker. Niles opens its football season Friday against Gull Lake.
“I haven’t watched TV in about three weeks,” joked Casey following the championship game. “Soccer is two mornings a week, I get home about 2 p.m., get a lunch, a quick nap if I can and then be back at football (practice) by 4.”
Casey wasn’t tested much Saturday. Niles defenders allowed Buchanan (0-2) just two shots on goal during the championship match – none during the second half.
“The defense really helped me quite a bit,” Casey said. “I thought I was going to have a hard time, but they really stepped it up for me. (Junior defender) Nick Knoll is a beast. He’s just everywhere and anywhere. He runs all day.”
First-year coach Dave Jacobs agreed with Casey.
“That’s where it starts,” Jacobs said about his defense. “If we’re defending in the back, it sets up things up front.”
The Vikings’ stout defense created multiple offensive opportunities, including a pair of goals before the championship match was six minutes old.
Senior Luis Aguirre started the early scoring barrage with a goal just prior to the 3-minute mark. Less than three minutes later, senior Graham Hoppstock ripped a shot on goal that took an odd bounce and slipped past a diving Buchanan goalkeeper.
Niles (2-0) tacked on an insurance tally less than two minutes into the second half. Senior Chase Hullinger outworked a Bucks defender for the ball near midfield, went untouched for nearly 35 yards and drilled a shot into the lower right corner of the net.
Jacobs noted the importance of the first two goals, but admitted to a sense of relief when Hullinger’s shot found its mark.
“We came out in the second with the goal to get that third one, because 2-0 is dangerous,” Jacobs said.
Niles launched 20 shots on goal, and Buchanan coach Brian Pruett was also quick to praise the Vikings’ defense for creating a higher number of offensive sorties than his club faced in a 5-1 semifinal victory over Brandywine Saturday morning.
“We noticed they were dropping five (players) back on defense,” he said. “We were trying to do what we could to split them, but the success we had in the first game didn’t transition well into the (championship game), because they were more stout.
“Every pass we’d try to make, someone got a foot on it. They recovered and then dropped a ton back on defense, but their transition was quick, back and forth. Their high pressure in that game really took its toll on us.”