By Travis Smola
The last few years have been a bit rough for Vicksburg soccer. But as September wound down, the team picked up two key back-to-back wins over opponents they have struggled with in recent years.
The first victory was over Sturgis, a team the Bulldogs haven’t beaten in seven years. The boys found themselves in a defensive struggle with both sides looking for an opening to get an edge on one another. After a stalemate through the first half, senior Noah Haines was able to find the back of the net on a scrum in front of the net midway through the second.
It was the only score of the game. The Trojans put huge pressure on the net after that, but the Bulldog defense held firm thanks to the play of goalkeeper Maxwell Tidey and defenders like Mitchell Vandermeulen, who were willing to dive in front of shots and save goals.
“This is not an easy team; Sturgis is a good team,” Head Coach Lahou Boulnemour said afterwards. “They’re as young as we are, and the kids fought hard and it paid off.”
Boulnemour still saw some areas that could use improvement, but the Bulldogs are much stronger on both sides of the ball than they were just a few seasons ago. “Our defense is key right now,” he said. “We made a lot of changes in our team strategy-wise, moving players around. I think we found the chemistry on defense.”
While the Sturgis game had many of the parents in attendance on the edge of their seats, the next game proved to be even wilder as they faced Otsego in a “battle of the Bulldogs.” Vicksburg went up 2-0 early in the game and appeared to be holding before Otsego came storming back late in the contest to tie things up.
But with only 29 seconds left in the game, midfielder John Rhyner got a free kick on goal that slipped, deflected off the goalie’s hands and right to forward Bryce Town, who put it in the net to give Vicksburg a 3-2 victory.
The Bulldogs now have a 5-7 record on the season, having also picked up two wins against Parchment and a win over Constantine this year.
“I’m very proud of the team. I think we have a good future,” Boulnemour said. “Next year, two years from now, I’d say we’re contenders for the conference.”