Blossomland starts third season

Published 7:43 am Saturday, April 22, 2006

By Staff
NILES - The Blossomland Soccer League starts its third season of adult premier play in Southwest Michigan larger and stronger than ever. The league lost three teams in 2005, but has added four more for this season. Almost 200 players from 21 different countries will participate in the 2006 campaign.
The league will be "more compact," according to league registrar Paul Pantaleo. Pantaleo adds that "BSL regular season play will end before Independence Day, so teams won't have long layoffs in between matches. And our post-season tournament will be single elimination this year, ending with the Blossomland Cup championship at the St. Joe Kickers Club on July 16 at 3 p.m."
The 2006 season begins on April 26 at Buchanan Middle School, when new member Buchanan FC hosts Whirlpool United. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
St. Joe Kickers
The St. Joe Kickers are the defending league champions after finishing the ‘05 season with a 9-1-1 record. Nick Lesch will share managerial duties with Ian Girvan, a long-time Kicker player from Scotland. Two other Girvans-Andrew and Jason- will be featured players for SJK. The Kickers have also added Coloma High School star Michael McCoy and return many former high school standouts from St. Joseph and Lakeshore.
The 2005 title was the Kickers eighth league championship and the first since 1986. The Kickers claimed five Western Michigan Soccer League banners and won two Michiana Soccer Association championships in the 1980s.
The Kickers will host the Blossomland Cup tournament championship again at their complex in Arden. This year's event will take place on Sunday, July 16.
Whirlpool United
Whirlpool United finished second in both league and tournament play in 2005 despite an 8-2-1 mark. WU will be coached by Marcelo Castro and Tomas Diaz, who are depending upon another solid year from Emmanuel Anagnoustou, who scored nine goals last season, and Andre Motta, who is coming off an eight goal effort.
Whirlpool scored 64 goals last season (tying with the Kickers for top mark) and placed four of their players in the top ten for most goals scored. Whirlpool will again be potent offensively, and with consistent play in goal should be in contention for the 2006 title.
WU has tentatively scheduled their games for the auxillary field at Upton Middle School near St. Joseph.
The 2004 champion P&R FC returns after a disappointing 6-5 campaign in 2005. Head coach Dennis Ott, who is also the league's president, has brought storied St. Joseph High School goalkeeper Charley Racine out of retirement in hopes to strengthen his defense. Racine, now in his early 30s, is emblematic of the veteran P&R squad, which features many players in their 30s and 40s, and also includes the league's "grand old man," 53 year-old Larry Carlson.
P&R will look to former Buchanan High School star Trent Teshka for offense in 2006 after losing Mark Nolte (who was Michigan Lutheran High School's all-time leading scorer). Veterans Tim Judkins, Matt Kasewurm, Aaron "Speedy" Howell and Harry Reinhardt will anchor the defense for P&R, which will play its home matches at Ott Field near Bridgman.
Player/coach Tony Catanzarite looks for better conditioning and greater dedication as the keys to improving last year's 2-8-1 record. Andy Low, former Brandywine standout and current Albion College player, returns as the Tornados major offensive threat. Despite playing only sporadically for the seventh place Tornados last season, Low still captured the BSL "Golden Boot" award as top scorer with 17 tallies.
Catanzarite has also added a second goalkeeper to strengthen an area that was suspect last year.
Catanzarite hints that the Tornados may be a bit unorthodox in 2006.
"I want to combine my relationships from other sports into a unique formula to disturb the traditional style of soccer," stated Catanzarite.
The Tornados, which feature nine Hoosiers on the roster, is partially sponsored by Blueberry Hill House of Pancakes of Niles. The Tornados will once again play their home games at Ballard Elementary School in Niles.
Dowagiac Dawgs
The Dowagiac Chiefs return with a new name - the Dawgs, and a new field - a soccer pitch on the site of the former Dowagiac High School baseball field. The Dawgs/Chiefs, who finished even last year with a 5-5-1 record, will again be coached by Zambian Chaiwa Chende.
With player/coach Chende the only exception, the Dawgs' players are currently students at Dowagiac Union High School. The soccer program at DUHS has used the BSL to its advantage since joining the league in its inaugural season three years ago. By playing against older and more experienced competition in the adult league, Dowagiac has found greater success in the fall interscholastic season, winning the school's first district soccer championship in 2004 and repeating that feat in 2005. Dowagiac varsity coach Mike Williams feels that the BSL has prepared his teams for the level of competition they have seen in the Big 16 Conference, and hopes to be as successful next fall when Dowagiac joins the Wolverine Conference.
The Dawgs will be led by Tony Black, who scored 13 goals last season, and senior Brian Edgerly, who made first team all-state for the Chieftains last fall.
Diamonds United
Last year's BSL Cup winner, the Diamonds, will feature a more heterogeneous line-up after the formerly all-Hispanic aggregation virtually split into two teams at the end of last season. In addition to their Latin core, the ‘06 Diamonds include Berrien Springs High School all-stater Augustus Sampah (originally from Ghana) as well as scholastic players from Coloma, collegiate players from Andrews University and veteran castoffs from the disbanded Mariners Soccer Club.
Team manager Octavio Latino, who is also the league's vice-president, is in the process of receiving his National "C" coaching license. Latino is proud not only of his efforts as a team manager, but also as a league executive who has helped create a competitive adult league that "does not tolerate foul language, inappropriate racial comments, or the abuse of alcohol."
Despite placing fifth in the regular season, the Diamonds peaked at tournament time to eventually defeat Whirlpool United in the Blossomland Cup championship match and finished with an 8-3 record.
The Diamonds will continue to play their games at the Andrews Academy soccer field located across from the fairgrounds in Berrien Springs. They are sponsored by Dr. Hamadanchi and Andy's Expedite. Tyler Automotive is also supporting the Diamonds by donating $100 from any vehicle purchased by customers mentioning the "Diamonds Team Promotion."
Real Dowagiac
Many of last year's Diamonds are now playing for Real Dowagiac, a team headed by former Diamond Hector Requenes. Most of the Real players have been together for almost ten years, although Requenes is looking to inject some youth into his line-up. He should get help from a Hernandez each game, as his team features six members from this soccer playing family. Ismael Hernandez scored twelve goals in 2005, and Octavio and Rodlfo Hernandez scored eight and seven goals respectively.
Real's home field at Southwestern Michigan College may cause problems for their opponents. At only 100 yards long, it is the shortest field in the BSL. But with their noted ball skills, Real may be able to work this pitch to their advantage.
For a town of 6,000, Dowagiac is well represented in the league. Twenty-one players come from Dowagiac, and a dozen more live in neighboring communities. Only the cities of St. Joseph and Niles are better represented in the BSL.
St. Stephen's Villians
P&R's top scorer from last season, Judson Soule, is now leading his own team, the St. Stephen's Villians: a word play on the St. Joseph and Stevensville members who primarily make up this squad. St. Stephen's is a conglomeration of former Lakeshore and St. Joseph High School stars which also features the player with the longest drive: Eric Burman of Chicago.
St. Stephen's roster reads like a "Who's Who" of 90's Bear and Lancer standouts: Rob Grashorn, Randy Hyrns, Todd Trumbley and Wes Barker. Coach Soule will also count on help from his brothers, Aaron and Ryan, who are both well-known Lancer players of the past.
St. Stephen's home matches are tentatively scheduled for Rockey Weed Field in Stevensville.
Buchanan FC
Two new teams comprised of high school players, Buchanan FC and Niles R.A.P., hope to follow in the success of Dowagiac High School by giving their players a spring and summer competitive soccer outlet.
Buchanan FC is coached by former Buchanan assistant coach Peter Greaves. BFC, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cyclery, will play their games at Buchanan Middle School.
Buchanan FC kicks off the 2006 BSL season when they host Whirlpool United on Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m.
Niles R.A.P.
Niles R. A. P. ("Raiders and Pillagers" to keep with the Viking theme) is the fourth new team to the 2006 BSL (the league lost the Mariners, Rangers, and Athletic Jaier FC from last season).
Coach Evan McCullough has a young team of Niles High School players who look forward to the experience they will gain by playing against the level of competition in the BSL. According to Niles varsity coach Jerry Holtgren, "The league will help them grow as players and as a team. The BSL is a great opportunity for area high school players to sharpen their skills and prepare for the fall season."
R. A. P., sponsored by the Country Bake Shop, will play their matches at the Niles High School varsity soccer field.