By Steve Gunn and Jason Goorman
But even that couldn’t fully explain what Western Michigan Christian’s Jameson Goorman accomplished on Saturday in the Division 4 state championship game at Novi High School.
Goorman looked as icy as the biter wind blowing across the field as he stood in the mouth of the goal, with five shooters from Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett getting ready to take him on from 12 short yards away.
Then he managed to do something his veteran Coach Dave Hulings has never seen in his long career – stop four of five shots in an overtime shootout.
The last save, facing Liggett’s Nolan Ondersma in the fifth and final round, was one for the history books. Goorman dove hard to his right and deflected the high, hard shot away, giving WMC a 1-0 victory and its first state soccer championship since 2010.
“I was just thinking that I was going to save every single one, that was my mindset,” Goorman said after the game to a crowd of reporters. “I just kept thinking about the next one. I am just excited and happy that we can bring back a state championship to my school. I had a lot of confidence going in.”
Hulings raved about his goalie after the game.
“Was Jamo big or what?” said the coach, who captured his third state title with the Warriors. “He is amazing. People wanted me to talk to him about being more intimidating in the box, but I said you don’t tell Jamo anything, he just knows what he’s doing. He’s just got a sense about it. He knows how to read players. That’s his parents and his DNA, it’s nothing you can coach.
“For him to make four saves (in a shootout), no I have never seen that before.”
Of course Goorman needed a little help in the shootout, because his teammates had to outscore Liggett to gain the victory. They didn’t have much more luck than the Knights did, but two Warriors – seniors Brendan Fles and Isaac VanHoeven – managed to get the ball past Liggett goalkeeper Sam Sword, and that was one more than the Knights could muster.
VanHoeven’s shot, the fourth of the shootout for WMC, proved to be the winner. He sent a low shot directly at the goalkeeper, and somehow it managed to trickle through his legs, giving the Warriors a 2-1 lead in the shootout,
Goorman made his final save a few seconds later, and the Warriors were the champions.
“It’s hard to come up with words to describe this moment,” VanHoeven said. “We put everything on the line today. I’m ecstatic. Being the last to touch the ball, putting it through the goalie’s legs, you couldn’t write it.”
The shutout victory was the sixth in seven games in the state tournament for Goorman and the Warriors. But this one was the most difficult of all, because nobody managed to put the ball in the net though 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.
Sword, the Liggett goalie, made a series of amazing saves in the last 15 minutes of the first half, when WMC was playing with a strong wind at its back and applied heavy offensive pressure. The Warriors outshot the Knights 8-2 before halftime, but the game was scoreless at the break.
Liggett had the wind and the offensive momentum in the second half, outshooting WMC 5-1. But Goorman came up big on several occasions to keep the game scoreless. His two most impressive saves of the half came with about three minutes left in regulation, when he dove to his left to stop a shot with his hands, then stopped another on the rebound while lying on the ground.
“The wind was bad,” Hulings said. “You saw what happened when they had the wind, we had to go with one forward and pack it in on defense and try to make it to overtime. They just kept coming at us. To see (the defense) shut that down was a testament to those guys. (Liggett) scored a lot of goals this year.”
The two overtimes also proved indecisive, and the score remained 0-0, leading to the dramatic overtime shootout, with five snipers from each team taking turns going one-on-one with the opposing goalie.
Liggett’s first shot, by Matthew Summers, got past Goorman, and suddenly the WMC keeper seemed mortal after all.
Fles shot next for WMC and found the mark, tying the shootout at 1-1. Then Goorman took over and put on a show, diving to stop four shots in a row with the confidence of an athlete who knew he was going to get the job done.
VanHoeven took his turn in the fourth round of the shootout with the score still tied 1-1. His simple, straight shot somehow got past Sword, and proved to be all WMC needed to gain the final edge in the dead-even contest.
Amazingly, WMC has ended each of the past four seasons with overtime shootout games. They lost the previous three and were eliminated from the tournament in sudden and painful fashion.
Saturday’s dramatic win more than made up for those losses.
“We’ve only allowed one goal in four years in the tournament, so we couldn’t go home without getting something from this,” Hulings said. “This is just amazing.”
Western Michigan Christian, which finished the season with a 19-2-3 record, has now won seven boys soccer state championships, in 1988, 1995, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010 and this year.
WMC reached the finals over the past few weeks by beating Eau Claire, Hudsonville Libertas and Holland Black River in districts, North Muskegon and Calvin Christian in regionals, and Dansville in the state semifinals.
In all of those games WMC only surrendered one non-shootout goal, to Calvin Christian, the top-ranked team in the state.