By Justin Haggerty
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Catholic Central girls’ soccer program is enjoying a renaissance this season.
MCC cruised past Kent City in the opening round of district play Tuesday, then knocked off perennial favorite Western Michigan Christian on Thursday to advance to Saturday’s District 4 finals against Ravenna.
The Crusaders came out a little flat against the Bulldogs in the finals, and the game was scoreless at halftime, but they managed to get a goal in the second half and captured a 1-0 victory and a Division 4 district title.
It was MCC’s first girls’ soccer district title since 2001 and only the second in program history.
The Crusaders move on to play in regionals on Tuesday at Big Rapids Crossroads Academy.
“It’s very special to these girls, they’ve worked hard for it,” said MCC head coach Art Dorsey, whose team improved to 19-3-1 this season. “Today we had to suck it up a little bit. A lot of tired legs, a lot of injured girls.
“We had a lot of opportunities, we just didn’t finish. Good teams still find a way and today we battled, clawed, fought and found a way.”
Ravenna came out strong, controlling possession in the first 15 minutes of the game, but was unable to capitalize on its advantage.
Each team had good scoring chances throughout the contest, but a lot of shots went high or wide. MCC hit the crossbar of the Ravenna goal twice.
With just 32 minutes remaining in the game, Ravenna was whistled for a hand ball near its own goal.
MCC’s Talia Tyler took the free kick and was stopped by Ravenna goalkeeper Kaylea Young. But Young struggled to corral the rebound with MCC’s Lilli Conroy bearing down on her.
Young recovered just in time to stop Conroy’s shot and keep the game scoreless.
A few minutes later, with 27:10 on the clock, Ravenna was again whistled for a hand ball, but this time it was in the box, resulting in a one-on-one penalty kick for the Crusaders.
Conroy converted with a low shot that made it past Young for the only goal of the game.
Ravenna coach Sam Smith said she was proud of her team’s effort in the close contest.
“I think (we) came in as underdogs, I think we came out and proved ourselves,” said Smith, whose team won the district title last year. “It’s a tough loss but it was a great game.”