By Jason Goorman

GRAND RAPIDS – Taking shots and scoring goals were the two different halves in Western Michigan Christian’s Division 4 state semifinal with Leland.

The Warriors peppered the Comets’ goal in the first half and scored all three of their goals in the second, pulling out an exciting, 3-1 win at Crestwood Middle School.

Lucas Dick lines up a kick during the first half of action for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

WMC is now happily entering the MHSAA state finals for the first time since it won it all in 2019.

Lucas Dick helped lead the Warriors in an exciting comeback, netting a goal for a 2-1 lead with 30 minutes left in regulation. The junior forward pressured the Leland defense from the outside all game, and it finally paid off for the lead.

“So much adrenaline was going through me,” said Dick about the high deflected ball that ended up near his feet and Leland’s goal. “I saw the ball at my feet and I just kicked it in for the team. The goalie was confused and I just had to hit it with the outside of my left foot and it went in.”

The first half started with WMC coming up with big opportunities on net but a quick move by the Comets’ Daniel Resendiz-Nunez put the Warriors down, 1-0.

Ashton Leffring, Gavin Riksen, and Dick led the WMC attack to eight first-half shots, despite a 1-0 deficit at the break.

Goalie Jared Olsen and the Warrior defense managed to hold Leland to just two shots in the opening 40 minutes.

“That’s experience, that’s having a senior goalkeeper that’s been in that situation,” said WMC Coach Ben Buursma who will be leading the Warriors in his first-ever state finals appearance at the helm. “Made some mistakes before and learned from them.”

No. 16 Joey Eastway and Lucas Dick react after Eastway ties the score for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

“We talked a lot about working off the ball so that guys didn’t have to dribble so much and that opened up a lot more lanes in the second half and we had guys running through them and finishing,” said Coach Buursma. “Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the moment. They were generating a lot of opportunities but the finish wasn’t there (in the first half).

Joey Eastway changed all the momentum for the Warriors just six minutes into the second half. The senior one-timed a pass from Leffring, finding the net from 25 yards out before Leland goaltender Ravell Smith could make the save.

“I really didn’t expect to come out and score a goal and an assist,” said Eastway about his big night. “I can credit that to Ashton and Gavin, but being able to come out and affect the game like this is super meaningful.”

WMC took a giant, 3-1 lead, with seven minutes left off the connection of Riksen and Eastway. Riksen split through the Leland defense from 18 yards out, got free and ripped a shot inside the far left post for an instant celebration.

Gavin Riksen celebrates after giving WMC a 3-1 lead. Photo/Randy Riksen

The Warriors outshot Leland 16-4 in the game as Olsen finished with three saves.

“It does feel great to be a part of this program, and I have my assistant coaches to thank,” said Coach Buursma who has a coaching staff full of WMC soccer alumni. “You can sense the tradition, these guys have grown up hearing about it and witnessing it, we talk about it constantly. No matter what happens, these guys are a part of a great program.” 

The Warriors are now set to play in the Division 4 state finals at Novi High School against Ann Arbor Greenhills on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Joey Eastway goes for the steal for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

Mathew Bradford-Royle controls for the Warriors. Photo/Randy Riksen

Gavin Riksen goes to rip a shot for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

Eastway reacts after finding the back of the net for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

WMC celebrates a goal. Photo/Randy Riksen

Lucas Dick celebrates with his team along the sideline after putting WMC up 2-1. Photo/Randy Riksen

Charlie Buursma follows the ball as he drives up the sideline for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen