Niles gets its kicks

Published 4:02 pm Sunday, May 20, 2012

After 60 minutes of soccer, and six shootout kicks, the Niles Vikings soccer team found themselves on the winning end of a 3-2 final over the Cassopolis Rangers in the championship game of the VanDenBerg tournament Saturday.

With the score tied at 0-0 after 60 minutes, the game moved to a shootout, where each team designated five players to alternately take penalty kicks and the team with the most at the end of their five wins the game.

It looked as if Niles would win easily on the penalty kicks as Alexis Arnold and Kaytlyn Miller each connected on their shots after Marissa Waldschmidt and Meagan Ruff each missed for Cassopolis.

Down 2-0 in the shootout, Hannah Ayers scored for the Rangers keeping their hopes alive. Taylor Hess misfired for the Vikings and then Jenny Stickle hit the crossbar keeping the score 2-1 in favor of the home team. Ranger goalie Molly Moroz made a great stop on the shot by Maggie Hoff and then teammate Sierra Westphal connected on the Rangers’ final attempt to tie the game at 2-2, but Niles had one shot left.

Senior Ava McKeel stepped to the line to win it for the Vikings but once again Moroz came up big for the Rangers with a nice save keeping the game tied at 2-2 forcing a second shootout.

In the second shootout both teams designate their five new players to shoot, but only one is guaranteed the opportunity as the game is over when one team has an advantage after both teams have shot.

First up for Niles in the second shootout was Abigail Gaines who calmly drilled a shot past Moroz into the back of the net giving the Vikings the 3-2 lead.

Moroz would then switch positions and be the kicker as opposed to the defender. Her kick was hard and well placed, but Niles goalie Eva Nemeth made a nice play to deflect the ball away and save the game for the Vikings.

It’s hard to figure out who is going to take those shots,” said Niles coach Jo Schau. “It’s all about confidence and just putting that ball in the back of the net. It’s nice to come out with a win.”

Both teams had a chance late in regulation to win the game as Ruff had a breakaway for the Rangers, but her shot rolled just wide of the net. Just a minute later Miller lofted a shot in from the right corner that beat Moroz but caromed off the left post back in front of the goal before being cleared out by the Rangers.

I thought we did not have a very good game all the way around,” claimed Cassopolis coach Oli Olafsson.

The Vikings (6-10-2) advanced to the championship game with a 2-0 victory over Brandywine in the first match of the day, while the Rangers (12-5-2) advanced by taking out Lakeland conference rival Buchanan 4-1.

Buchanan (8-8-1) was a 5-0 winner over Brandywine (2-13-1) in the consolation game.