The Lady Bulldog soccer team has had its struggles the last few years, but things were really looking up this season.
“We just came out and played well,” Assistant Coach Brad Moldovan said after the girls picked up an 8-0 shutout win over South Haven. “Overall, we just played well as a team and were able to move the ball and put the ball in the back of the net.”
The defense was stellar all night against the Rams as goalkeeper Haley Town only had to make two saves thanks to the awesome play of the Vicksburg defenders. But equally impressive was the Bulldog attack. Sophomore Chloe Hatridge opened the scoring with an assist from fellow sophomore Sarah Hewitt. Not long after that, Hatridge scored again, unassisted this time, to make the score 2-0. She put in a third goal late in the game, but it was called back on an offsides.
Junior Leah Johnson was the third Bulldog to score, lofting a long shot over the head of the South Haven goalkeeper. Not long after that, senior Hailey McConnaghy made it 4-0 with an assist from sophomore Abby Martin.
Sophomore Taylor Bays scored next to make it 5-0. After the half, she widened the lead to 6-0 with an assist from Hewitt. Johnson scored again after that to make it 7-0. After that, McConnaghy ended the game with about three minutes left with her second goal of the game. She was assisted by Hatridge.
“It was one of our better shooting performances of the year,” Moldovan said. The game marked the fifth shutout win of the year for the Lady Bulldogs, who started off a little slow against some tougher schools at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve built a lot from there,” Moldovan said. “We had some puzzle pieces to figure out with some players not returning. Since then the girls have played well and turned the season around.”
A big benefit last year was all the freshmen players got to compete at the varsity level and now have a lot of experience under their belt. It should spell good things for the Bulldogs in years to come. “As they continue to progress and playing together as a team, they’ll really improve in the next couple years as we move forward,” Moldovan said.
“We’ve had an interesting track season because of the youth on this team,” Co-Head Coach Jon Kachniewicz said. “We’ve had first-time tracksters that are juniors and we’ve had freshmen come out and perform well. But it’s really a young team.”
Kachniewicz said it took them a while to get some of these younger athletes into the proper mindset, but things started to look up as the season went on. “Everybody has improved so much this year, it’s been fun to watch,” Co-Head Coach Dave Smith added.
One of those younger athletes is sophomore Levi Thomas, who has quickly showed his talents in hurdles. At the Wolverine Conference meet he won the 110 and 300-meter events. At Regionals the following week, he set new personal records in both events on his way to winning the 300 and taking second in the 110-meters. He also finished fourth in high jump.
At Regionals, the Bulldogs also saw a new personal record set in the 800 meters by Jacob Malocha. Sophomore Joey Loriso also had a great day at Regionals. He set three new PRs in the 800, 1600 and 3200-meter finals events.
The 4×100 meter relay team was the most successful relay at Regionals for the Bulldogs. The team of Brian Roberts, Ben Welch, Kevin Veld and Casey Hall finished fifth. Welch also finished in ninth and eighth place in the high and long jump events.
Coach Smith noted the unpredictable Michigan weather affected training for many events this season. “We had to be inside a lot to train,” Smith said. “Pole vault, high jump, long jump, all those suffered. We were inside a lot.”
Trustees for the Schoolcraft school board approved a $50-per-family trainer fee with an amendment to look annually at finances for the full-time trainer.
The board previously sent the issue over to the Finance Committee to look at funding options for participating in a cost-sharing program with Bronson Hospital that would allow the district to hire current athletic trainer Jordan Love in a full-time capacity.
Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook said the committee came back with a recommendation to set a fee for this year at no more than $50 per family, but also to re-assess the issue next year. Board President Jennifer Gottschalk estimates they might get half of the $25,000 needed from the fee. The rest will come from the general fund.
The board briefly discussed other ways of funding for the issue after Secretary Ryan Ledlow expressed concerns about asking parents for more money ahead of a looming potential bond project. Trustee Rachel Phelps agreed. However, Finance Director Rita Broekema said it would be difficult because it would require a lot of negotiating to alter the contract with Bronson.
The board also discussed educating parents on why the trainer is necessary. Previously, a trainer was provided free of charge to school districts as part of a program with Bronson and Western. But changes to educational requirements for trainers means that program will end in the next couple of years. The district would like to keep the current trainer in a full-time capacity now.
Superintendent Rusty Stitt suggested also educating parents on the trainer’s expanded role in the district as a full-time employee. The board ultimately decided to approve the fee. But it also added an amendment to look at the issue every year so potential changes could be made to the way the trainer is paid in the future.
Gottschalk also provided a brief update on the facilities study at the meeting. The facilities committee will be looking at data from the latest EPIC-MRA survey held in early April and will be bringing a recommendation on whether the district should pursue a bond issue in November at the May meeting.
The board also honored Tina Darling as the Soaring Eagle of the month award winner at the meeting. “She’s one of those individuals who sees a problem and does not rest until she sees a solution,” Stitt said. The problem was the addition of a crosswalk to the east and south of the elementary and middle school. Many drivers were failing to stop at the new crosswalk, presenting a danger to students.
Darling stepped up to volunteer her time as a crossing guard at the location and quickly developed a good relationship with the students who used it. “Even on the coldest, nastiest, dog days of winter, Tina was out there protecting our kids and building relationships,” Stitt said.
In closing the meeting, the board also thanked high school principal Ric Seager, who will soon be leaving to take on a new job as Superintendent at Watervliet Public Schools. “I just want to say thanks again, Ric, for all that you’ve done for us,” Gottschalk said. “We’re so excited for you to start your new opportunity, that’s awesome! We are definitely going to miss you.”
Nearly three years after a farm accident took his leg, Trenton VanderBor doesn’t think too much about the struggles it caused. “I don’t think it was a huge setback,” he said. “It’s become very regular to me now, it’s almost as if I have another leg. Normal.”
Nevertheless, the fateful accident forever changed the Vicksburg High School senior’s life in 2016. “If I would have played freshman year football, I wouldn’t be in this situation,” VanderBor said. “But I believe everything happens for a reason.”
He was 15 years old in 2016 and working his first job at a local farm just before his sophomore year one day when his right foot became caught in the drag belt to a conveyer system in a corn silo. “The belt ran on my foot for about two minutes before they were able to shut it off,” VanderBor said. The belt then had to be reversed so he could back himself out of it and be rushed to Bronson Trauma Center.
The next year proved to be brutal. He spent 18 days in a hospital. Trenton underwent five surgeries in the first five days in the intensive care unit before being transferred to the University of Michigan’s children’s hospital for three more surgeries to amputate his foot and remainder of his leg. After that came eight months of physical therapy.
“Learning to walk again was definitely the hardest,” VanderBor said. Other simple tasks like standing in the shower are made much more difficult when one must balance on one leg for eight minutes. “It’s harder than it seems.”
One thing that helped was the outpouring of love and support from his friends, family and the community – especially from the teachers, who gave him a lot of leeway in his assignments given the circumstances. “I’m very thankful for all my friends and family that have supported me through it,” he said.
If anything, the incident was harder on his family. “I think it was hardest for my mom to fathom that her son had just lost his limb,” VanderBor said. “But I think now she’s one of the most accepting people of it, and she knows now that nothing holds me back and I’m able to do anything anyone else can, maybe just not as fast.”
But one thing that couldn’t be changed was the injury’s effect on Trenton’s sports career. Three to four months after the accident he returned to school and supported the basketball team through the whole season at games and at practice. “It stunk a little bit to not be able to go back and play the sport that I loved, but I got a better understanding and a better outlook on life for it,” VanderBor said. “Things aren’t all about sports. I’m just happy to live and be able to see the next day.”
And Trenton’s sports career wasn’t done completely. It just shifted slightly to new things. Trenton threw discus and shotput in 2017 after being inspired to do so by head coaches Jon Kachniewicz and Dave Smith. He took his junior year off from sports before deciding to bowl this past winter.
“Some of my other buddies did it with me,” VanderBor said. “Kind of just for fun, but we took it more seriously than we probably should have. It was always a competition at practices and meets, but it was a good time.”
Through it all, he did keep up with his love for weightlifting; he even has a specialty prosthetic leg for it. It’s one of three; the others are for swimming and everyday walking and running.
As his senior year winds down, VanderBor is looking towards the future. He admits the accident did alter his plans a little. First, he plans to attend KVCC to major in mechanical engineering before transferring to WMU. But his accident also sparked an interest in helping other amputees and he is considering a minor in medical engineering. After that, he may transfer to Eastern Michigan University to work on a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics.
He already helped a young girl from the eastern side of the state facing an amputation by helping her prepare for the many challenges that were ahead. “No one can relate better than someone who’s been through it already,” he said.
Ultimately, he just hopes his story of overcoming adversity can help others, no matter what their struggles may be.
His advice? “Never give up, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” VanderBor said. “Always get better and be thankful for what you have, just be thankful to see another day.”
Joey McCowen is pitching and Parker Wilson is guarding first base for the Bulldog baseball team. Photo by Travis Smola.
David Benedict makes good ball contact while batting for the Bulldogs. Photo by Travis Smola.
By Travis Smola
“We’ve been in most of the games we’ve played so far,” Vicksburg varsity baseball Head Coach Brian Deal said. “An error here, a walk there and next thing you know, it turns into a run and we get behind in the game.”
Unfortunately, this has been how things have played out in the early part of the season as the team has a 2-6 record. “The best thing I can say about it is, it’s early, and this is only the seventh game that we’ve played so far,” Deal said after the second game of a double header against Conference foe Sturgis was suspended due to failing light.
The team lost the first game of the double header to Sturgis 13-8, but they had their chances. The Bulldogs were leading going into the fifth inning when the Trojans took back the lead. With two on and one out, Carter Ford hit a high fly ball to center that allowed one runner to score and tie things up in the bottom of the fifth.
But Sturgis struck right back with two more runs in the top of the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, Jacob Conklin had the big highlight of the night when he smashed a huge solo home run over the center field fence to get Vicksburg back within one. But the Trojans responded with four runs in the top of the seventh that went unanswered by the Bulldogs.
The second game got off to an even rougher start as the Trojans went up 6-0 before play was suspended in the fourth.
It’s worth noting Vicksburg lost seven key seniors last season. Deal expects much of the Wolverine Conference to be in a similar position this season.
“It’s one of those things that’s going to be a work in progress where we just have to come to practice every day. We have to try to get better,” Deal said. “We have to go into every game trying to improve on something. That’s how we have to look at it, because if we start folding up the tents right now, it’s going to make for a long season.”
The Vicksburg varsity boys’ lacrosse team started off its season with a hard-fought physical contest against rival Portage Northern, but came away with a low-scoring 6-4 win.
“I think everyone played hard. I think the referees called a good game,” new Head Coach Mike Malloy said. Senior midfielder Krew Conroy opened the scoring for the Bulldogs early in the first and tacked on a second crucial goal in the game’s waning minutes.
Senior Midfielder Michael Kessler had a hat trick of three goals in the contest. Sophomore attacker Nicholas Anstead accounted for the other Bulldog goal.
The Huskies tacked on a late fourth goal in the game’s final minutes, but Kessler’s third goal of the contest helped seal the deal for the Bulldogs.
“We were lucky to really hang on at the end there,” Malloy said. “This was the first bit of adversity that they’ve faced and as you could see, it was a little bit of a challenge. But they rose up to it at the end.”
He said he’ll be looking forward to seeing how the players respond to this adversity in their upcoming practices. Malloy brings previous coaching experience at the middle school and varsity level in another district close to Vicksburg. He also previously served as an assistant for Olivet College and spent some time coaching overseas as an assistant for the Dutch Men’s National Team.
This team has had an extremely strong start to the season, beating big-name teams like Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. In their latest game, a close contest against Harper Creek, the Bulldogs snatched away a 9-8 victory in the final four seconds of the game to bring their record to 5-2 for the year.
Many eyes will be watching this Bulldogs team this year as it attempts to defend its Conference Crown for a fourth consecutive year in the Southwest Michigan Lacrosse League.
The Vicksburg varsity girls’ lacrosse team showed flashes of potential in an early-season loss to powerhouse Caledonia.
The team ultimately lost the game 21-4. But considering how difficult scoring was last year for the squad, it’s a marked improvement for a team which has many members still learning a very complex game. The big highlight of the night was freshman Bella Pence, who accounted for three of the Lady Bulldogs’ goals. Her first goal came on a play where she cut up the middle through the Fighting Scots’ defense for a wide-open shot at the goal.
Later in the evening, senior Taylor Miller got in on the action when she ran behind the opposing goal and then cut back in front to make a spectacular left-handed shot into the back of the net. This year’s team has only three seniors but eight freshmen, making it a team with some growth potential.