ARGOS — The Northern Indiana Soccer Conference (NISC) was formed in 1969 to foster the growth of high school soccer, then only six years old in Indiana. Saturday night, two of the charter members of the conference, Argos and Bethany Christian, met in a boys and girls varsity doubleheader for the conference titles.
Argos boys vs Bruins
The boys match featured pair of Class A ranked teams, with Bethany at No. 6 and Argos at No. 19. The season finale was also the conference title game as both teams came in with unblemished 4-0 NISC marks.
The Dragons got a goal and assist from sophomore Damon Binkley to grab a 2-0 lead and held on for a 2-1 upset win and the conference championship.
While Argos leads the overall NISC title race with 16, Bethany had won the last five in a row. In fact, the 2012 conference title for the Dragons was their first since 1998.
Senior Zach Stockman put the Dragons on the board in the 22nd minute on a cross from Binkley. Five minute later, the sophomore forward found a ball at his feet and attacked hard into the box against two Bruin defenders. One of the Bethany backs missed the ball and fouled Binkley to set up a penalty kick. Binkley’s shot made it 2-0 at the half.
“We marked two of their mids and it helped to disrupt the flow a bit,” Argos boys coach Todd VanDerWeele said. “They probably had the possession edge, but we took advantage of our opportunities and they missed theirs.”
Midway through the second half, Bethany’s Caleb Morris hit a spectacular bicycle kick from 14 yards, which was stopped by an equally great diving save from Jacob Mechling. However, the ensuing Bruin corner kick ended up on Morris’ foot again, and this time, his low shot found the back corner and, suddenly, the game was 2-1. Eight minutes later, Morris’ header found Josh Stoltzfus open on the left side, but the senior’s shot went just high.
The Dragons had been defending quite a bit but broke open for an attack in the 70th minute when Dominic Cataldo’s header just missed the inside post.
Bethany had three chances in the final three minutes. A header from Morris saved by Mechling, a low corner kick that rolled across the penalty area four yards from the endline without a touch from either team, and a free kick from 30 yards as time ran down. That free kick sailed over the goal, and the Dragons celebrated their 17th NISC championship, and first since the seniors were in kindergarten.
The Dragons finished the regular season with a stellar 14-1-1 record, while the Bruins fell to 12-5 on the year.
Lady Dragons vs Bethany
In the girls game, 2011 NISC champ Argos needed a win to claim a share of the title. The Lady Dragon’s 4-0 win, combined with a Culver Academy win over Westview earlier in the day, left Argos as the outright champion.
“The kids passed well and made their keeper work,” said Argos girls coach Jon Alcorn. “It was senior night with the conference title at stake, so they were wound up a bit. Sam (Richardson) does a good job with Bethany. They only have two seniors, but they kept battling. We had two quality finishes in the second half, so everyone got to play. It was a good way to finish before the tournament.”
Senior Jami Patterson scored the game-winner just three minutes in. She was tripped in the box and converted a penalty kick. Shelby Sanders scored on a free kick from 25 yards and the Dragons led 2-0 at the break. Argos dominated play, but Bethany’s keeper, Natalie Thorne, kept the visitors close with several strong saves.
In the second half, Patterson notched her second goal of the day, assisted by Sammie Hopkins on a combination in the box. Raelynn LaFrance scooped up a Bethany goal kick, dribbled straight to goal from 30 yards, beating two defenders, and laid a low pass to the far corner to account for the final tally.
The Dragons outshot the Bruins 14-0 on the day and led in corner kicks 9-0. Argos finished 9-5-2 (4-1 NISC) while the Bruins fell to 3-10 (0-5 NISC).
The title was the Dragon’s 10th since girls play began in 1997. Culver Academies is next in the title list with five.
Both Dragon squads begin IHSAA Sectional play Monday at 6 p.m. ET, with the girls taking on Kouts at Covenant Christian in DeMotte, and the boys traveling to Culver to face the host Cavaliers.
• ARGOS 2, BETHANY CHRISTIAN 1
A — Zach Stockman (Damon Binkley) 22nd minute
A — Binkley (penalty kick) 27th minute
B — Caleb Morris (Josh Stoltzfus) 57th minute
Shots On Goal: Argos 5, Bethany 5
Saves: Argos 4(Jacob Mechling), Bethany 3 (Trent Yoder)
Corners:Argos 7, Bethany 4
Records: Argos 14-1-1 (5-0 NISC), Bethany 12-5 (4-1 NISC)
• ARGOS 4, BETHANY CHRISTIAN 0
A — Jami Patterson (penalty kick) 3rd minute
A — Shelby Sanders (free kick) 19th minute
A — Patterson (Sammie Hopkins) 55th minute
A — Raelynn LaFrance (unassisted) 61st minute
Shots On Goal: Argos 14, Bethany 0
Saves: Bethany 10 (Natalie Thorn)
Corners: Argos 9, Bethany 0
Records: Argos 9-5-2 (4-1 NISC), Bethany 3-10 (0-5 NISC)