The Western Michigan Christian boys soccer team left it all on the field Monday night as they gassed Muskegon Catholic Central for a 9-0 victory in the opening round of the district tournament.
The Warriors triggered the eight-goal mercy rule with three minutes remaining in the first half, but tournament rules require a full half to be played, allowing them to secure their biggest victory of the season.
The MCC program is undergoing a rebuild, with just enough players to field a team. WMC had mercied the Crusaders in both of their regular season meetings, making Monday’s playoff matchup a complicated affair.
“MCC is a cross-town rival, so at the same time you feel for their kids, they are trying to turn their program around, you know this is tough on their boys, so you feel for them,” WMC head coach David Hulings said. “But, in a tournament run, you can’t ever take your foot off the gas. Normally, we may have done this a little differently, but you can’t let up in the tournament.”
The 37-minute mercy was the quickest of the Warrior’s many truncated victories so far this season.
The Alfree brothers got things started for WMC, with a foot in the first three goals of the contest. Owen kicked things off three minutes into the game with an unassisted goal, burying an errant rebound. Ten minutes later, Owen threaded a pass forward to Evan Fles, who finished from the box to put WMC up 2-0.
Charlie Alfree followed his brother’s lead, capitalizing on a loose ball in traffic just in front of the Crusader net seconds after WMC’s second goal.
Seventeen patient minutes passed before the Warriors found the net again, as Tommy Tencate converted a thru ball at the top of the box from Adam VanHoven.
Photos from Monday’s game
Fles got back into scoring action to net his customary hat trick with eight minutes left in the half. His second goal came via rebound, sending a blocked shot back past the MCC keeper. Just 40 seconds later, he netted a crisp pass by Tencate to put the Warriors up six goals with exactly eight minutes left in the half.
With 3:40 left to play, Jordan Wisniewski took a pass from Chandler Breit, wove through the entire MCC defensive group, leaving a wake of broken ankles and netted his first goal of the game. Fles officially triggered the mercy victory, netting a header-corner kick to the far post less than a minute later.
With three minutes left to play in the half, the Warriors kept pounding. Breit recorded another assist, this time finding Josh Boyink with six seconds left to play to bring the game to its final score of 9-0.
“It is hard to get up when you have mercied a team twice and have the play them again, so every little thing is planting a seed in the ground, one that will sprout in our next game,” Hulings said. “Today, we were trying to make sure we stopped them from staging any attacks. I think they got into the attacking third once on a free ball, so we accomplished that. When we defend as a team we are really good, so we focused on that.
“We have some organizational things that we are trying to work on. These games tend to produce more bad habits than good ones. We aren’t necessarily trying to improve, but not pick up bad habits. Like on our attack when we use our backs, we want them to be precise, we want them to be patient and make the attack when it is time.”
The performance today was impressive, but the road gets much harder as the playoffs continue, just not right away. WMC will take on North Muskegon on Wednesday, who they also mercying during the regular season.
The Norsemen eliminated the Warriors in the opening round of the district tournament last season, but shouldn’t be a problem for the 2017 WMC squad.
“That was the first time in a long time I have been eliminated in the first round of the district, it was a sad, sad day,” Hulings said. “I think we got that out of our system in our regular season meeting, though. They are a better team then us mercying them, we were really on that night. I expect it to be a better game, its North Muskegon; they don’t want us to win. They are going to come out and do everything they can.”
After their matchup with the Norsemen, the plot thickens for the Warriors.
“I don’t want to talk ahead,” Hulings said. “But, once we get past Wednesday, we take on the No. 1 team in the state, the No. 10 team in the state, the No. 2 team and the No. 3 team.”
NorthPointe Christian handed the Warriors one of their three losses of the season in just their third game of the year on Aug. 19. The Mustangs finished their schedule 19-1-1 holding the No. 1 Division 4 ranking. They are poised to meet the Warriors in the district title game after taking a 9-0 victory over Kent City Algoma Christian in their opener and an assumed win over the winner of Fruitport Calvary Christian vs. Ravenna.
The Warriors will utilize valuable practice time to stay sharp through their cushy opening rounds.
“Now, we get a practice under our belt Tuesday, that is where we get our work done, we have tough practices,” Hulings said. “We have a very competitive team. I can put them in four-on-four situations and they really compete with one another, that is how we keep our edge. It won’t be a problem getting up for our games.
“What we are trying to do is be consistent, not make mistakes and not be foolish. The big thing is we are ready to play no matter who the opponent is. We will be.”
WMC will host North Muskegon for the second round of districts on Wednesday on their home field at Muskegon Christian School, with kickoff scheduled for 6:45 p.m.