KENTWOOD – The Western Michigan Christian boys soccer team is back in the state finals for the first time since 2019, when they captured the Division 4 championship.

The chance to win another state title means a lot to all the Warriors, but particularly senior Joey Eastway, who was a freshman that year but was not on the team.

“I played club soccer my freshman season and had to sit out when we won state, so playing with this team means a lot,” said Eastway, who had a goal in WMC’s exciting 3-1 victory over Leland on Wednesday in the Division 4 state semifinals at Crestwood Middle School in Kentwood.

WMC trailed 1-0 at halftime but stole the victory and secured a berth in the finals with three goals from three different players in the second half.

WMC’s Joey Eastway brings the ball up the field. Photo/Andrew Johnson

The Warriors will now play Ann Arbor Greenhills on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Novi for the state title.

“We’re a very storied program,” said Warriors head coach Ben Buursma, who’s in his third season with the team and is making his first trip to the finals. “We knew we had a challenge on our hands when we took over three years ago. But we’ve been building for this moment and we’re happy to be back and represent WMC.”

The game did not look promising for the Warriors after the first 40 minutes.

Senior Daniel Resendiz-Nunez scored with 8:57 remaining in the first half to give Leland a 1-0 lead that held up until halftime.

The Warriors failed to get on the scoreboard in the first half despite having a 5-2 advantage in shots on goal.

Warriors goalie Jared Olsen boos the ball away from his net. Photo/Andrew Johnson

“I didn’t expect us to come out so flat,” Buursma said about the low energy he felt his team played with in the first half. “But (Leland is) a well-coached team and (coach Rob Sirrine) had those guys ready to go.”

The Warriors woke up and tied the game just 5:33 into the second half when Eastway found the back of the net with a laser shot.

“We were playing for our lives,” he said about his goal. “It was score goals or lose. We’re not ready to lose. It was what we needed to do and we did it.”

The game didn’t remain tied for long. Just 3:43 later, WMC junior Lucas Dick scored to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.

Senior Gavin Riksen finished things off with a goal with seven minutes remaining.

WMC’s Ashton Leffring (8) tries to work his way around a defender. Photo/Andrew Johnson

“We were being too individualistic in the first half,” Buursma said about the difference in his team’s offense in the second half. “We were just trying to do too much on our own. In the second half, we made a point of spreading the ball out and working off the ball. We just found each other better.”

The Warriors outshot Leland 12-4 in the game.

While other teams may have flinched about being down at halftime, Buursma was confident that his team would pull itself together and find itself playing for a state title.

“The later it gets in the game, we know we’ll have chances,” the coach said. “We’ll find that goal eventually.”