Surging Boyne City Shining in Spotlight

April 25, 2019

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half

Boyne City is a force to be reckoned with on the girls soccer pitch.

Katie Harmeling still remembers when that wasn’t the case.

“Our first two years we were struggling a lot,” said the Ramblers’ senior defender. “We got mercied a lot of the time. Just had a lot of trouble as a team.”

The Ramblers won just six games during an inauspicious first two years of Harmeling’s career, but my how things have changed.

Boyne City went undefeated through the regular season last year while winning its first Lake Michigan Conference title and started off this year with an unbeaten streak of seven games. The only game the Ramblers have failed to come out of victorious was a 1-1 draw with league rival Harbor Springs. Otherwise, they have been dominant, winning games by an average of six goals and posting five shutouts along the way.

“We’re continuing to improve each game we play,” said senior keeper Cora Hauger. “Now that we’re getting into the thicker part of our season, we’re starting to figure out what needs to be done and we’re starting to connect more as a team and work together in that sense. We keep improving each game.”

Boyne City received a big boost, and began to see its fortunes turn around, when a large and talented class of freshmen joined the program last season after years of honing their skills at the youth level and on the club circuit. Seven started in their first year, and right from the beginning they showed they were ready to lift the Ramblers to new heights in spite of their youth.

“I knew (we) were going to be getting a good influx of players coming in,” said head coach Ed Fantozzi, who is in his fourth year leading the varsity. “The youth program is excellent. It feeds a lot of kids. It’s building, even on the boys side. It’s a great feeder program.”

Because Boyne City had never experienced success in girls soccer, the common belief was that the Ramblers were catching teams by surprise last year. That’s not the case now, however, as Boyne’s reputation has changed quickly. The Ramblers suddenly have a bulls-eye on their backs.

“Last year we came out of the gate and nobody knew who we were,” said Hauger. “This year we’re battling back from everybody knowing who we are. We kind of have to overcome that in the sense that nothing we do is surprising. Everybody knows about the big throw-ins. Everybody knows who our shooters are. Everybody knows we have a strong midfield. We just have to play our game.”

The light is now shining brightly on the Ramblers, and they are proving capable of handling the added attention they’ve brought upon themselves.

“People are focusing on us more than they might have in the past,” said Fantozzi. “It brings a different dynamic to the season. Winning is awesome, but it’s also one of those things where you have to learn how to deal with it. We have a young team and they’re handling it well. They’re a very mature group.”

Boyne City has a well-rounded squad overall. The Ramblers possess dynamic goal-scoring ability and are backed by a stout defense.

“We don’t look at it like one person is the reason why we are winning. It’s a team effort,” said Fantozzi. “The twins (Jordan and Taylor Noble) are phenomenal forwards, but without the rest of them they’re not going to be phenomenal by themselves. It is all of us who are doing this — from me, to the two assistant coaches that are helping out, to all the girls — we are a team. We work together. We win as a team, we lose as a team and we tie as a team.”

Knowing it could now win games and championships, Boyne City wanted to take the next step and bolstered its schedule this season. The Ramblers already have played, and beaten, much larger schools such as Traverse City Central and Alpena. They also have a match next month against Freeland, the Division 3 runner-up last year.

“That was one of our first steps this season was to get some highly-competitive games that pushed the envelope, that shook things up a little bit,” said Fantozzi. “We can pick up nonconference games and say, ‘Oh, we want to pad our record,’ but we’re really trying to pick up as many games that push us past our limits, put us out of our box of comfort.”

It’s all in an effort to perhaps add more championships to the board on the gymnasium wall; the program finally was able to attain a board detailing the school’s girls soccer titles when it won a league crown. The Ramblers are looking to repeat in the Lake Michigan Conference as well as win postseason hardware. Last year Boyne City saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion with a 2-1 overtime setback to Harbor Springs in the District Final. That loss came after it had beaten the Rams twice during the regular season.

“To be cut short on our season was very hard,” said Harmeling. “We were all very upset. It was really hard all around. That loss has given us something to work toward this year.”

The Ramblers don’t just want to stop at a District title, either. They feel they have what it takes to make noise even longer than that.

It’s quite a contrast from just a few years ago, but it’s also made some of the older members of the team appreciate the prosperity they are now enjoying.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling to go from being on that team where we didn’t play very well and we didn’t have very much talent on our team — we worked hard but we didn’t have much talent — to progressing to being a senior and a leader on this team where we have the potential to go very far,” said Hauger. “It’s just a really cool feeling to see the evolution of the Boyne City soccer program.”

Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Boyne City's Jaelyn Jarema (4) works to maintain possession against Grayling this spring. (Middle) Inanna Hauger (7) finds an opening to move the ball ahead against Kalkaska. (Photos by Sports in Motion.)

Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

July 17, 2024

Olivia Viney didn’t have to look far for inspiration while taking on the challenge of applying to veterinary school.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 2015 Marine City graduate and record-setting placekicker simply drew from her own experience as a high school athlete.

“It just really taught me that I could do hard things,” Viney said. “I was very involved when I was in school. I did soccer, theater, travel soccer and then football. Especially with football, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. That helped me to excel in undergrad. When it came time to get accepted to vet school, it was like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and I did it. That was very confidence-building. It taught me that I really can do hard things.”

Viney, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2019 and Michigan State Veterinary School in 2023, is now working as an associate veterinarian at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in West Bloomfield. 

Accomplishing her goals is nothing new to Viney, and not at all a surprise to those who watched her come through the Mariners athletic program.

“She was very serious, she was focused and she was dialed in,” said Dave Frendt, who coached Viney in both football and soccer at Marine City. “She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she set out to do that. She was a fierce competitor and very driven. She was a good leader in that way where she was kind of feisty, but the team would follow that.”

Viney was an all-state soccer player for the Mariners, leading them to a pair of District titles and a Macomb Area Conference Gold title during her four years as a varsity player. It’s the sport she grew up playing, but the one she was most known for after graduation was football. American football.

The 5-foot-1-ish center attacking midfielder found herself in the MHSAA football record book after hitting all seven of her extra point attempts in the Mariners’ 2013 Division 4 Final victory against Grand Rapids South Christian.

“I think it makes sense,” she said. “There were lots of great soccer players, even that I played with. Great players that had gone through school, so I don’t think it’s weird that people remember me for that. When I talk with people, they’ll connect the dots – ‘Oh, you played football.’

“I was more accomplished as a soccer player and had more accolades. But I’m prouder of my football accomplishments, because it was really setting a pathway for girls that wanted to get into that. It’s so much more common now, or accepted. Even though it’s been almost 11 years since we won at Ford Field, I’m so proud of high school Olivia and what she did, the courage she had. She wasn’t scared of anything.”

Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. Viney joined Marine City’s football program as a sophomore, playing on the junior varsity squad. While she was there only to kick, she was all in when it came to practicing.

“Coach (Joe) Fregetto made me do tackling drills and drills in the mud – I really did earn my spot on the team,” Viney said. “I think it was mostly because he didn’t know what to do with me, so I guess just do everything that the guys do.”

She handled varsity kicking duties the next two years, setting the school record in 2013 for most extra points made during a single season – a record that still stands. Former Mariners coach Ron Glodich said that Viney actually never missed an extra point that season, as the four failed attempts were never even kicked.

It was her performance in the Division 4 Final that gained her statewide acclaim, as she hit 7 of 7 attempts, tying a record for most extra points made in a Finals game. It stood until a pair of kickers hit eight in 2022.

One record that never will be broken, however, is Viney becoming the first female to score a point at the Finals.

“Everything was so surreal, I was so nervous,” Viney said. “One of my most vivid memories was that day, or maybe the day before, Coach Glodich said, ‘Just so you know, when you get to the field, the goal posts are two feet narrower on each side. But that doesn’t matter if you kick it in the middle.’

“We got there and watched the team before us so we could get used to it, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so narrow.’ … Seeing myself up on the big screen was kind of almost a little embarrassing, because I knew people were talking about me being the girl. But once we were in the game, it was a lot like any other game. I was just waiting for my turn to go on the field and do my job.”

Viney later was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” – ironically, right below current U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh – but she wasn’t looked at any differently by her teammates, and she wouldn’t have wanted to be.

“That team was all about sacrifice for the team,” Frendt said. “For them to realize, ‘None of us can do what she does, so we better embrace it, because no one else can do it.’ They really made her feel like part of the team. They wanted to protect her, too. But she was tough. She wasn’t going to take anything.”

Viney went to SVSU to study biology and played for its club soccer team. During her time there, she volunteered at an animal shelter and made the decision she wanted to help animals in her career. She works in general practice at Deporre, and would eventually like to work in shelter medicine.

She and her husband Matt, who were married in May, live with their three dogs. She’s not far from home, and in the spring of 2023 she visited Frendt’s college and career readiness class to speak with students at her alma mater. Her presentation and the attention to detail and hard work she put into it, Frendt said, blew his students away. Not that it surprised him.

“That’s poured into her life after sports,” he said of her work ethic. “She just kept plugging away. She’s awesome.”

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 E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Marine City’s Olivia Viney kicks at the 2013 11-Player Football Finals, also during her spring soccer season, and cares for one of her patients as an associate veterinarian. (Middle) Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. (Photos courtesy of Olivia Viney.)