The Western Michigan Christian boys soccer team looked pretty good for most of the 2015 season, but coach David Hulings thought the team could better their chances at a deep postseason run even more. With four or five games remaining, he put a proposal on the table for his senior captains.
“I went to them and said, ‘Hey, if we bring up four or five of these sophomores, we can be really deep and even better. But if I do, a couple of you probably won’t be able to start,’” Hulings recalled. “… They agreed to bring the guys up, … I think it helped us get as far as we went. … It talks about the character of the program and kids. There wasn’t a hesitation with our kids to give them a chance. ‘If they were better, let them play.’”
The move appeared to pay off, as WMC advanced to the Division 4 semifinals, falling in a shootout to Kalamazoo Hackett.
While the influx of talent helped, Hulings said that leadership was the most important factor to the Warriors’ run.
“That has to do with leadership more than anything else,” he said. “I had senior leaders, whether they were standing on the sideline or field. It was the first group of boys who didn’t make it to a finals since I’ve been here. … I think there was a little added push to bet there. … That was kind of disappointing (to be eliminated) in a shootout.”
Best of the Rest
No. 5: WMC girls soccer
WMC boys soccer’s road to the semifinals
District opener: WMC 5, Hart 0
The Warriors pounded the Pirates to begin the postseason.
Dylan Mines led WMC with a hat trick, while Tyler Van Beek and Chandler Briet each added a goal.
District semifinal: WMC 5, Fruitport Calvary Christian 1
WMC nearly began the playoffs with a shutout streak. The Warriors jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead, cruising to victory.
Evan Fles recorded a hat trick to lead WMC, while Liam Rudd and Hayden Hubers each added a goal.
District final: WMC 5, Muskegon Catholic Central, 5-0
The Warrior defense shut out its rival, while the offense spread the ball around.
Dylan Mines, Tyler VanBeek, Owen Alfree, Evan Fles and Hayden Hubers each scored one goal to power the WMC attack; while Pearson VanDine, Chance Larson, Joshua Paquin and Liam Rudd solidified the backline.
Regional semifinal: WMC 2, Charlevoix 1 (Shootout)
WMC defeated Charlevoix 3-0 in the regular season, but the Rayders made life more difficult for the Warriors in their regional matchup.
The contest came down to a shootout, with Owen Alfree kicking the game-winning goal. Dylan Mines, Will Deur, Chance Larson and Cal Robrahn also made their kicks.
Michael Merz was superb in goal for WMC.
Fles recorded the lone regulation goal, with Mines assisting.
Regional final: WMC 1, Leland 0
The WMC defense continued to be stingy, recording another shutout in a big game.
WMC nearly trailed against Leland, as the Comets headed in a corner kick with 19 minutes remaining in the first half. Luckily for the Warriors, the referees waved the goal off due to the ball going past the end line and coming back in.
The Warriors took advantage of the break later in the half. Cal Robrahn beat his man on the left flank at the 31-minute mark, sending a pass to Evan Fles who tucked a one-touch shot past the keeper into the far-side netting.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second half.
Division 4 semfinal: Kalamazoo Hackett 2, WMC 1 (Shootout)
Once again WMC found itself in a shootout, but the Wariors weren’t able to pull the second one out, their season coming to and end in the semifinals.
WMC took an early lead in the PK’s, when Will Deur hit a mid-net shot toward the right side. Merz dove and slapped Hackett’s first kick away, preserving the 1-0 lead.
The Hackett keeper did the same on the Warriors’ next shot, before the Irish made one of their own to tie the penalty kicks at 1-1.
WMC’s Chance Larson and his Hackett counterpart nailed the next shots to the upper left corners, before the fourth shooters broke the tie.
The Warriors’ Cal Robrahn hit the crossbar, before the Irish’s James Amat guessed Merz’s move, kicking it middle as the keeper dove left.
Owen Alfree missed WMC’s last shot wide right, guaranteed the win for Hackett. The Warriors closed their season with a 17-6-1 mark.
The Warriors trailed early in the game, as the Irish’s Kieran O’Brien floated a long shot into the net just 20 minutes into the contest.
WMC responded later in the half. Evan Fles flew down the field, reaching the ball just before the Irish defenders flanking him and the fastly-approaching keeper. The then-sophomore poked the ball past all of them with 25:36 remaining, tying the contest at 1-1.
There was plenty of offense from both sides after that, but no more goals.
WMC seemed to continue bolding momentum, outshooting Hackett 5-1 in the first overtime period, but every kick was just a little bit off.