The Warriors got it done with a relentless attack, lockdown midfield game and a stifling, though sparsely employed, defense. After trading goals in the opening seven minutes, WMC took the lead for good as senior captain Evan Fles netted two goals in the span of one minute, putting the Warriors firmly in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the game.
“Great win, I loved it,” WMC head coach David Hulings said. “I was really happy with how my guys finished today. I thought our attack was really well designed, and I am happy with the way the defense covered Zach Shane.”
Despite the dominating performance, the Warriors were down early as Fruitport found their rhythm early in the game.
Just 15 seconds into the contest, the Trojans put together a scoring chance, sending a quality shot just over the crossbar. The Warriors responded with a look of their own before Fruitport brought it all the way back to open up scoring.
Ryan Bytwerk did the honors, giving the Trojans the impression they were in control of their own destiny against their crosstown Division 3 adversaries.
“I saw some things from our players in the first 10 minutes that I wish we saw all 80 minutes,” Fruitport head coach Greg Kobylak said.
“That first 10 minutes was what Trojan soccer is usually like. We’ve been missing that all year.”
Fles responded just three minutes later to even the score, assisted by Adam Van Hoven, kicking off the Warriors’ relentless attack.
“They have a certain mentality when they are down 1-0,” Hulings said. “‘How quickly can we get the goal back?’ I think they are thinking about that all the time. I think every time we have been scored on, we have responded with an attack within a minute.”
The push didn’t stop with the tie. Chance after chance went high, low, off the cross bar and into the hands of Fruitport keeper Connor Hines, as the Warriors picked apart a tough Trojan back line.
Early in the game, Fruitport was able to put together a few quality transition chances, but as the first half wore on the Warriors took control of midfield.
Fles’ two-goal spurt came with nine minutes left in the first half as he diced up a weakening Trojan defense, assisted only by his own fancy feet and explosive speed.
“In the beginning of the game, there was no midfield play, and that bothered me,” Hulings said. “We aren’t a long ball, back-and-forth team, so I was really glad when we got control of the midfield and started linking up to make attacks from possession.”
“I was just seeing gaps in the defense and felt like I could outpace some of their defenders,” Fles said. “They adjusted later, so we had to find new ways in.”
With proper adjustments by the Fruitport defense, WMC’s 3-1 lead carried into halftime, giving the Trojans a chance to regroup.
The attack continued after halftime, with WMC putting together an open scoring chance on their first possession. Minutes later, Johnscott Finley finished a crisp pass by Hayden Hubers to put the Warriors up 4-1. The Trojans needed a spark to stay relevant.
Shane, Fruitport’s Western Michigan University bound forward, provided. He got on the board with 17 minutes left to play, netting a beautiful arcing free kick from Austin Golden to bring the Trojans within two.
Despite a reinvigorated Fruitport attack and a few trips into WMC’s final third, the Trojans couldn’t convert another try, while an overworked defense continued to deal with a non-stop barrage of shots.
Seth VanderKooi got on the board with 9:55 left playing cleanup, finding a rebound in the Fruitport box for the fifth Warrior goal. Three minutes later, Josh Paquin netted a penalty kick with 6:50 left to play to finish off scoring.
The tireless WMC offense wasn’t just a product of heart; the team owes their extreme fitness and speed to conditioning coach Mike Teeter.
“Our conditioning coach does a really good job getting us ready for our games,” Fles said. “He knows what it takes to get people hyped and get people going.”
While the Warriors praised conditioning and proper mindset, the Trojans have some work to do before they kick off their conference season if they want to survive when they host the district tournament later this season.
“We are struggling to find the togetherness, our team cohesion has been slow to develop this year,” Kobylak said. “We have struggled through a number of injuries, new faces and new positions, but it has taken too long. We expect to be better.”
WMC (4-1) returns to the field to face Reeths-Puffer on Thursday. The Trojans fall to 1-3 and face Rockford on Thursday.
Junior varsity: WMC defeated Fruitport 4-0. Isaac VanHoeven, Nick Moser, Michael TenCate and Cameron Lee scored for the Warriors.
Ethan Vanorman recorded the shut out for WMC.