Vikings rally with seven second-half goals for victory

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, August 22, 2023

DOWAGIAC — For the first 40 minutes of Dowagiac’s season opener against visiting Niles, it was hard to tell which team was playing its fifth match and which was playing its first.

The Chieftains raced out to a 4-1 halftime lead and looked to be in control of the non-conference soccer match.

But Niles regrouped at halftime and scored seven second-half goals to pull out the 8-5 victory and remain undefeated at 5-0.

“This team showed a lot of grit and resiliency being down 4-1 at halftime and coming back to score seven goals in the second half,” said Niles Coach Scott Riggenbach. “We looked sluggish in the first half and these guys fought through it to play Niles soccer in the last 40 minutes.”

The Vikings were playing their fourth match in four days. With the heat and humidity, it may have taken them a while to get their feet under them.

The Chieftains, meanwhile, looked fresh and faster than the Niles in the first half. In the second half, Dowagiac could not keep up the momentum.

“Today was a big learning day for us,” said Dowagiac Coach Joey Pasternak. “We came out in the first half and played our game and pretty much controlled the first 40 minutes. Then, in the second half, we got comfortable with the lead and ended up falling right into their game and not our own, and it cost us in a big way.”

Despite the loss, Pasternak thinks his team has potential.

“I saw a lot of positive things, and being our first game, I thought the guys played well, but we have a few kinks in the chain to work out and have to learn to play a full 80 minutes,” he said. “I’m excited to see where we can go from here.”

Josh McIntyre had a pair of goals for the Vikings, who also had Ben Bruckner, Andrew Catujar, Nathan Becraft, Owen Podlin, Gavyn Luke and Aydan McCary find the back of the net.

Podlin and Becraft both had a pair of assists for Niles. Bruckner picked up an assist as well.

On Wednesday, Niles will travel across town to face Brandywine in a non-conference match. The start time has been pushed back from 3 to 5 p.m. due to the excessive heat.

Dowagiac returns to the pitch Wednesday when travels to Vicksburg for a non-conference match. The start time has been moved to 7:30 p.m. due to the heat indexes. On Saturday, Dowagiac will host its annual Chieftain Invitational with Cassopolis and Niles participating.