By Jason Goorman
Local Sports Journal

Western Michigan Christian stuck to a solid game plan in its 4-1 Division 4 soccer district championship victory over Muskegon Catholic on Saturday. TheWarriors controlled the short passing game and kept the Crusaders to long passes.

The Warriors also didn’t waste time as they were able to get on the board early off a Jessica Kinnucan goal 13 minutes into the contest.

Alexys Riksen put WMC up 2-0 just four minutes later and the Warriors had a 2-0 halftime lead.

But MCC didn’t let up despite the deficit as senior forwards Lauren Prince and Natalie Bertolone kept the attack on for the Crusaders. Bertolone was finally rewarded with a late goal off a Micaela Halloran assist to make the score 3-1.

The Crusader defense did all it could to keep the Warrior offense away from the net and held WMC scoreless until late in the second half.

Alyssa Benedict gave WMC a 3-0 lead off an assist from Kinnucan. The junior Kinnucan put WMC up 4-1 off a Benedict pass.

WMC held the Crusader offense down with goalie Lindsey Johnson and defenders Mykayla Denison, Mikaela Erickson, and Alyssa Wright. Johnson finished with 14 saves while her teammates in front of her did not let MCC get more than a few solid scoring chances all game.

“They have speed and they play smart and they don’t create a lot of danger for us,” said WMC coach David Hulings of his defense against Catholic. “In the end, we all got tired, but Catholic kept going and earned a goal.

“I thought our forwards did a great job of attacking their fullbacks and our fullbacks did a great job of attacking their forwards.” said Hulings about his offense.”Lindsey distributed the ball well and has been putting in a good effort to find her players up field with her strong foot.”

It was a tough loss for MCC, which has lost three years in a row to WMC in the districts. But coach Mike Banka wasn’t let down by his team’s performance against a very good Warrior squad.

“I thought we played a very solid game against a very good team,” said Banka. “I was impressed with the heart of my players to not give up after WMC got those two goals relatively early. We stuck tough for a long time and didn’t let them get anything else before WMC scored again 40 minutes later.”

WMC outshot MCC 19-15 as Crusader goalie Mackenzie Wozniak posted 15 saves in the loss.

The Warriors move on to play in the Big Rapids Crossroads Academy on Tuesday at 7 p.m. That game will be played at Fruitport High School. The regional is being hosted by Traverse City St. Francis, which will host the regional final game.