By Dave Tomczak

NORTH MUSKEGON – A shutdown defense, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities, have helped the Western Michigan Christian boys soccer team earn the top ranking in the state in Division 4.

Both of those traits were on display Wednesday in WMC’s impressive 3-0 win against a strong North Muskegon squad in the Division 4 district semifinals.

WMC, which improves to 17-2-3 on the season, advances to Friday’s 4:15 p.m. district finals at Muskegon Catholic Central. The Warriors will face Fruitport Calvary Christian, which defeated Kent City 3-1 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

“From day one, I said that there was something special about these guys,” WMC coach Dave Hulings said. “And I think that opening 40 minutes was the best we’ve played.”

North Muskegon’s Chad Hildwein maintains possession over WMC’s Andrew Rasmussen. Photo/Eric Sturr

The first eight minutes of Wednesday’s game resulted in a stalemate at midfield, with both teams clamping down on defense.

The Warriors got the first opportunity to score at the 32:45 mark, when Charlie Alfree dribbled through the Norse defense and had a 1-on-1 showdown with North Muskegon goalie Nick Gerstweiler, but ended up firing his shot wide to the right.

Alfree made up for it a little while later, however, when two Norse defenders collided on a throw-in and let the ball get behind them.

Alfree flew in, scooped up the loose ball, broke in alone on Gerstweiler and buried the ball into the bottom left of the net for a 1-0 lead at the 25:42 mark.

WMC increased its lead to 2-0 at the 19:42 mark when Brevin Byrne lofted a throw-in toward the net, and Hayden Hubers headed it into the right top corner.

“One simple breakdown and they capitalized on it, that’s what great teams do,” Norse coach Jeremy Tjapkes said. “That (first goal) frustrated us, and then they came right back and got that second one, and now you’re down 2-0.”

Hubers soon made it 3-0, scoring the exact same way, in the exact same spot, as his first goal, this time off a corner kick from Cameron Lee.

The Norse’ Hunter Koekkoek keeps stops Brandon Fles. Photo/Eric Sturr

WMC went to the break with the lead and a 10-2 advantage in shots.

North Muskegon came out and continued to play hard to open the second half, but the Warrior defense denied any scoring chances.

“I thought it was a good 80 minutes and our defense played really well,” Hulings said. “North Muskegon’s a really good team. We’ve beat them 4-0 (earlier this year) and 3-0 (tonight), and those scores don’t reflect the intensity that they bring.”

The Warriors finished the game with a 12-5 shot advantage, and goalie Jameson Goorman finished with the shutout on five saves.

Gerstweiler stopped nine shots for the Norse, who finish the season with a 13-4-3 record.