MUSKEGON – Western Michigan Christian made a statement in their regional semifinal on Tuesday night. In a region that features four of Division 4’s top six teams, the Warriors protected home field with a 3-0 win over North Muskegon.
While there was contention surrounding the second goal, with a North Muskegon player appearing to be fouled in the buildup, there was little doubt as to the result. Two goals from Charlie Alfree after Brandon Fles’ opener were enough for WMC.
“After we got the first, we kind of played not to lose,” WMC head coach David Hulings said. “Once the second went in, we just set up shop and quit attacking.”
On a windy, cold night, it was tough for both teams to play the way they wanted. The Warriors controlled the ball for most of the first half, and could have gone ahead a minute into the game after a bouncing ball in the penalty area was too tough for Alfree to control. A Norseman shot hit the bar 6 minutes in, but after that it was all WMC until the opening goal.
A free kick from Brevin Byrne was chested down by Fles, and the senior was allowed to control and finish from close range. Barely 9 minutes in, WMC held the advantage.
“It was a tough game to play our game in,” Hulings said. “We like to play on the surface so it was a little easier for us.”
The Warrior defense was in place to block off any North Muskegon routes to goal, and a quiet end to the first half was interrupted by a foul in the box by a WMC defender. Jamison Goorman made an excellent save to his right to keep the WMC shutout.
“He is so instinctive,” Hulings said. “I have no idea what it is. That was a big turnaround for us. He came up just huge, and it seemed to electrify us.”
The second half started the same way the first ended: stuck in midfield. Neither team could grab a foothold, and as a result there were few clear chances. An Alfree shot was well saved by the North Muskegon goalkeeper, and after a corner kick Fles couldn’t get off a good shot in a scramble.
The all-important second goal wrapped the game up for WMC, and it came with a touch of controversy. A North Muskegon player was looking to clear the ball away when a WMC player looked to have fouled the Norseman player. The referee didn’t call a foul, and WMC played on, finding Alfree in the box. His controlled finish made it 2-0 midway through the second half, and without either team gaining much control in the game, there was no way back for North Muskegon.
Alfree added a third in the last 40 seconds after substitute Owen Varnado won the ball away from the North Muskegon goalkeeper. His shot might have been traveling in, but the senior made sure of it with his touch.
“They continued to fight hard,” Hulings said about North Muskegon. “Hats off to them. They played so hard and never gave up.”
The Warriors will play Grandville Calvin Christian at 7 p.m. on Thursday. They defeated Leland 2-1 in the preceding match, and have lost just once in their season.