Western Michigan Christian sophomore Alexys Riksen said after she scored her second goal of the first half in the Division 4 regional semifinal contest at Warrior Field on Tuesday, she expected visiting Charlevoix to give up.
The Rayders failed to get the memo.
Charlevoix outshot and mostly outworked the host Warriors throughout the second half, helping the northern Michigan school cut their two-goal deficit in half with 6 minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
The Warriors needed a late clear out-of-bounds to break up a potential breakaway from the Rayders’ speedy forward Ellie Way, and WMC was able to burn the rest of the clock and breath a sigh of relief in their 2-1 victory.
With the win, the Warriors improve to 16-4-2 this season. They’ll host Grandville Calvin Christian on Friday in the regional championship at 7 p.m. The Squires eliminated WMC from last season’s postseason, a 3-0 final in the Division 4 semifinals.
“We’ve been looking forward to (playing Calvin Christian in the postseason) all season,” said WMC coach David Hulings. “They ended our season last year in spectacular fashion. They were really good. But we think we’re a little better this year, so we’ll see how it plays out. They’re still the team to beat.”
Hulings couldn’t have asked for a better start against Charlevoix, as Riksen turned a chest trap into a one-hit volley and goal past Rayders’ net minder Gloria Greene just 15 seconds into the first half.
“Our game plan is to go forward and never go back,” Riksen said. “We pushed forward right away and that one turned out great because we got a goal out of it.”
Riksen, who has been bothered by a high ankle sprain throughout the spring, showed no ill effects on her second goal of the first half, a booming left-footed shot from 30 yards away that sailed over Greene’s head, skimmed the crossbar and fell into the goal.
“Lexy was on,” Hulings said of Riksen. “She was passing well and distributing. We liked what we had.”
Hulings also liked the effort from his defense, as the unit — led by senior sweeper Julie Merz and sophomore Alyssa Wright — limited the Rayders to just three shots at keeper Lindsey Johnson through the first 40 minutes.
WMC, on the other hand, peppered Greene with nine first-half shots and kept its foot on the gas early in the second half.
“I liked our attack,” Hulings said. “That second half, for the first 10-15 minutes we attacked, attacked, attacked. Even though we didn’t score, the girls know we’re maintaining possession.”
Hulings admittedly might have become overconfident, as he said he began subbing in waves of players and Charlevoix started controlling possession. The Rayders outshot the Warriors 7-4 in the second half, and ended their scoring drought after Way slipped behind the defense and calmly blasted a shot past Johnson.
Johnson made a total of nine saves and Hulings liked her ability to charge off her line to snag some free balls.
“We tell her that’s her real estate out there,” he said.
Brea Frein and Jessica Kinnucan — both freshmen — had WMC’s assists.
WMC and Calvin Christian played to a 1-1 tie at a tournament in mid-May, but Hulings felt that both teams didn’t showcase their full arsenal.
“I think we were just testing each other out, knowing that this day may come,” he said.