By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

The tournament trail is about to get a whole lot tougher for the Western Michigan Christian Warriors.

On Tuesday night, the Warriors made quick work of the Big Rapids Crossroads Academy Cougars with an 8-0 victory. The game was due to the mercy rule with less than 6 minutes gone in the second half.

WMC's Alyssa Benedict on the shot. Photo/Randy Riksen

WMC’s Alyssa Benedict on the shot. Photo/Randy Riksen

The outcome moves the Warriors (18-1-1) into Thursday’s Division 4 regional championship game against Charlevoix, a 3-2 winner over Leland in a semifinal game played Tuesday in Traverse City. The 6 p.m. title game will be played at Coast Guard Field in Traverse City.

Despite the lopsided victory, WMC coach David Hulings was not entirely pleased with his team’s effort in the opening minutes of the game. Oh sure, Alyssa Benedict had scored a goal just 4:24 into the match, but the overall play of the Warriors did not sit well with Hulings. In fact, he pulled most of his starters and inserted his reserves in an effort to get a message across to them.

“We come out with 10 minutes like that Thursday and we’ll be down 2-0,” Hulings said. “We come out that way against Calvin (Christian) and, if we get that far, we’ll be done.

“I’ve got a young team so they sometimes lack focus,” Hulings said.

“The reserves heard me grunting so when they went in there, it was ‘we’d better score a goal,’” Hulings said. “The starters could hear it so they thought they’d better score quick. But it wasn’t about scoring, I hate running up scores and I don’t like to do that. That team worked really hard this year and to end that way … it was about the quality of play and our quality of play was really bad.”

WMC picked up the pace and got rewarded with 27:23 left in the half when junior Jessica Kinnucan scored on a low rip that caught inside the far post.

Lindsey Johnson makes the saves during WMC's shutout of Big Rapids Crossroads. Photo/Randy Riksen

Lindsey Johnson makes the saves during WMC’s shutout of Big Rapids Crossroads. Photo/Randy Riksen

The floodgates opened up 10 minutes later. In rapid succession, Benedict scored after beating  the Cougar goalkeeper to the ball and pushing a shot into the wide open net. Just 24 seconds later, Alexys Riksen scored with an 18-yard blast. Then 4 minutes later, Lauren Myers scored off an assist from Kinnucan.

Amongst those Warrior goals, the Cougar had their best scoring chance, a rip by Alyssa Larson that was saved with a one-handed stop by Warrior goalkeeper Lindsey Johnson.

Kinnucan scored again with 8:13 left in the first half, with assistance from Alyssa Wright and WMC took that 6-0 lead into the half.

The offensive barrage continued in the second half. It started with Riksen unloading a hard shot from rang off the crossbar, but within 15 seconds, Kinnucan scored again, this time with an assist being credited to freshman Cassie Kingma.

Not only did Kinnucan score three goals, but she also chipped in with two assists.

The game ended less than a minute later on a breakaway goal by Riksen.

Alexys Riksen moves the ball up field for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

Alexys Riksen moves the ball up field for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

WMC had 24 shots on goal and Crossroads finished with eight. Johnson had eight saves and posted  the shutout in net.

“We had to come out and play our game without mistakes and we didn’t do that,” Crossroads coach Ross Meads said. It was Crossroads first-ever appearance in a girls regional soccer tournament.

Crossroads finished its season 13-4-1.

“Thursday we have a really tough game,” Hulings said. “I expect that to be really tight. They’ll be ready.”