By Steve Gunn
Just ask the North Muskegon girls soccer team.
WMC came into the tournament with a 12-6-1 record, which is certainly good, particularly against a challenging schedule. But it was not nearly as good as North Muskegon’s 17-3-2 record.
Earlier in the season it looked like the Warriors and the Norse were pretty evenly matched after playing to a hard-fought tie.
But on Saturday, in the Division 4 district finals at Muskegon Catholic Central, WMC dominated North Muskegon from start to finish in a 3-1 victory.
It was at least the fifth straight district championship for the Warriors girls squad.
“We don’t really worry about our regular season record,” said WMC Coach Dave Hulings, whose team will play the winner of the Kalamazoo Christian district tournament in regionals next week. “Our goal is the last six games of the tournament, which if we keep winning would put us in the (state) finals. We’ll see what happens. We try to pick it up a little bit every game.
“I love each one of them,” Hulings added about his players. “They are highly coachable and really flexible and fluid, if that makes any sense. You can move them around and have them do different things and they do a really good job. They are a great bunch of girls.”
The Warriors got on the board just over seven minutes into the contest when Mikaela Erickson scored on a close-range penalty shot from inside the North Muskegon goalie box.
WMC added two more goals in the second half.
The first came just before the three-minute mark, after North Muskegon goalkeeper Gus Keur made a diving save but lost the ball, which a defender appeared to accidently kick into the net. WMC’s Jessica Kinnucan was credited with the goal.
The final Warrior goal came about 10 minutes into the second half when Maria Michael lifted a high shot from about 20 yards out that tipped off Keur’s outstretched fingers and found the mark.
North Muskegon got its only goal with about four minutes left in the game when Grace Berends scored from close range.
Western Michigan Christian controlled the offensive pace from start to finish, outshooting the Norse 11-1 in the first half and 11-3 in the second.
The loss ended a brilliant season for North Muskegon, which posted a perfect 10-0 mark in league play and won its first West Michigan Conference title in years.
“Give credit to (WMC),” said North Muskegon Coach Ryan Berends. “Dave (Hulings) did an extremely good job preparing for us. I know he was scouting us when we played Catholic on Thursday. He took away the outside from us. We tried to adjust by working the ball short from the inside out, but it was too little, too late.
“These girls have dome special things all season. Only one team in Division 4 doesn’t have to end its season with a loss. It’s just unfortunate that today we did.”