Niles reclaims VanDenBerg Invitational championship

Published 11:13 am Sunday, August 20, 2023

BUCHANAN — After having its streak of 11 consecutive VanDenBerg Invitational championships snapped by Cassopolis last year, the Niles soccer team was on a mission Saturday.

The Vikings were focused on reclaiming the annual soccer tournament title, which they did with a 7-1 win over rival Brandywine. Niles advanced the championship match with a 5-1 win over Cassopolis in the semifinals.

Brandywine reached the title match with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the host Bucks.

“When we sat down at the beginning of the season, our first goal was to win the VanDenBerg and bring that trophy home,” said Niles Coach Scott Riggenbach. “I’m proud of these boys and the work they have put in to win this today. This was a team effort and every player contributed to the wins today.”

The Vikings (4-0) scored two quick goals top begin the championship match. The scored would remain 2-0 through the remainder of the first half. Niles would explode for five goals in the second have against the Bobcats, who were worn down.

“We had just enough gas to outlast Buchanan,” said Brandywine Coach Caleb Adams. “In the second game against Niles, we ran out of gas. They jumped on us early and scored two goals. We rallied and had a few chances in the second half scoring on a penalty kick, but our defense fell apart and allowed several open shots.”

Niles outshot Brandywine 12-3 in the title match.

Scoring the first-half goals for the Vikings were Owen Podlin and Nathan Becraft. Podlin added a pair of goals in the second half to record the hat trick. Becraft scored his second goal in the final 30 minutes, and he also added an assist.

The final two goals were scored by Andrew Cutujar. Ben Bruckner had a pair of assists for Niles.

Max Clark stopped all three shots for the Vikings.

Against the Rangers, Michael Matlock had a pair of goals. Becraft picked up another goal, while Levi Haboush and Josh McIntyre also found the back of the net.

Clark stopped all four shots he faced. Niles outscore the Randers 12-4.

Scoring for Cassopolis, Brandywine and Buchanan was unavailable at press time.

The Vikings are back in action Monday as they travel to Dowagiac for a non-conference match.

Cassopolis is back on the pitch Tuesday against visiting New Buffalo, while Brandywine hosts Niles on Wednesday and Buchanan hosts Michigan Lutheran.