By Jason Goorman
LocalSportsJournal.com

When the postseason gets into full swing, a team relies on its seniors to step up.

Western Michigan Christian senior Gavin Riksen did just that for the Warriors’ soccer team in its, 4-1, Division 4 district championship win over NorthPointe Christian on Friday night.

The senior forward tallied a pair of goals in WMC’s win, his fifth in two games, and his timing couldn’t have been better. Riksen also a scored a hat trick on Wednesday night in the Warriors’ 6-2 semifinal win over Ravenna. 

“It’s all about senior leadership at this level, and we’ve been blessed to have a really great core group of seniors,” said third-year WMC Coach Ben Buursma about Riksen’s play and his Warrior senior core. “These guys have been building for the last three years on varsity. They are peaking right now and it’s fun to watch.”

Riksen blasted his first goal from 25 yards out on a shot he lasered inside the upper far-right corner, far out of the reach of the NorthPointe goalie.

The unassisted goal by Riksen gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead and put his team into the driver’s seat midway through the first half.

Senior Charlie Buursma, son of Coach Ben Buursma, gave WMC a 1-0 lead, four minutes into the game on a well-placed cross pass from sophomore Tekalegn Vlasma.

“It’s fantastic, a special moment, been blessed to be able to coach him for three years now,” said Coach Buursma about the thrill of seeing his son’s opening goal.

NorthPointe responded with a goal from Ethan Fackler to cut the Warriors down to a 2-1 lead. But the WMC defense stepped up and limited the Mustangs’ opportunities the rest of the night.

“We’ve been working on the defenders, on making sure they limit the passing lanes and make sure they didn’t allow them (NorthPointe Christian) to turn like they did so well against North Muskegon in the semifinals,” said Coach Buursma about how his defense did against the Mustangs. “They are just on a mission to playing hard and are playing real well right now.”

Another WMC senior, Ashton Leffring, put the Warriors up 3-1 with 17 minutes left in the half, assisted again by Vlasma.

WMC carried its 3-1 lead into halftime and added its final goal midway through the second half.

Riksen gave the Warriors a 4-1 lead on another impressive goal. This time, Vlasma placed a cross-pass into the middle and just inside the 18 yard line as Riksen ran up and one-timed the rolling ball with a left footed shot that sent the ball hovering just above the ground and into the back of the net.

“Feels pretty amazing, one in the upper 90 and one in the bottom left,” said Riksen of his No. 16 and 17 goals this season. “It’s tournament time, it gets your adrenaline going, and it gets you hyped.”

The Warriors are now 12-8-2 overall this season and return with another district title trophy that last happened in 2020.

“It’s really amazing and means a lot to us. We have had our ups and downs, but our seniors come through every single time,” said Riksen of the district title and his senior teammates. “Our main goal is to get back to state, been working on this since the beginning, through summer trainings and through this season.”

WMC last made it to the state finals in 2019, a state championship that was won in a shootout, when this year’s seniors were freshman.  

The Warriors heavily outshot NorthPointe 18-6 as goalie Jared Olsen posted the win with five saves.

Vlasma finished the night with three assists for WMC.

The next stop for the Warriors is slated for 8 p.m. Wednesday night at Holland Christian High School. WMC will face Howardsville Christian in the Division 4 regional semifinals.

Photos courtesy of Randy Riksen