By Justin Haggerty

MUSKEGON – One of the hardest things to do in sports is beat a rival three times in a row.

Western Michigan Christian beat Muskegon Catholic twice during the regular season in Lakes 8 Conference girls’ soccer action.

Grace Johnson fights for the possession against MCC’s No. 8 Lauren Doriot. Photo/Leo Valdez

The two teams met again in the Division 4 district semifinals on Thursday, and a three-peat did not occur.

MCC got over the hump and dethroned the defending district champion Warriors with a 2-0 victory on WMC’s home field.

The Crusaders will face Ravenna in the district finals on Saturday at noon at WMC.

“We’ve had teams that have been just as talented, but we’ve lacked heart, and today we came to play,” said MCC head coach Art Dorsey. “We worked super hard, our girls wanted it very badly.

“I think for the first time since I’ve been here, we wanted it more than them. All season long we’ve been working on mental toughness, and today it paid off.”

Neither team could break through in the early minutes, but MCC finally got a break when WMC was whistled for a hand ball in the box that led to a penalty kick.

MCC’s Lilli Conroy capitalized on that opportunity and put the Crusaders up 1-0 with 12:30 to play in the first half.

Chloe Mitchell dribbles the ball upfield with MCC’s No. 11 Leah McKenna defending. Photo/Leo Valdez

Conroy then took the game over, leading an MCC attack that controlled possession and held WMC without a quality scoring chance in the first half.

The score remained 1-0 for a majority of the second half.

After some pressure by the Warriors, MCC’s Talia Tyler broke free down the left sideline and blasted a shot that went untouched, giving the Crusaders a 2-0 lead with just 9:04 to play.

WMC had its best scoring chance with 5:36 remaining when it had a penalty kick. But MCC goalkeeper Isabella Bertalone made a spectacular diving save to her left and preserved the shutout.

Dorsey said Bertalone is 8-for-8 in stopping penalty kicks over the past two seasons.

“That was a big boost,” Dorsey said of her big save. “At the end of the day, she’s probably the best keeper I’ve seen in a long time. She is one of the most athletic keepers I’ve ever seen.”

The Warriors pressured the MCC defense down the stretch, but their shots were just wide or were cleared by the Crusader defense.

“They were the better team tonight, they came to play,” said WMC head coach David Hulings. “Art did a terrific job of getting his girls ready, and I didn’t get my girls ready. That was the difference in this game.

“I’m proud of my girls, we’ve got a great team. I’m proud of my seniors, they did a really good job. We just got outplayed tonight by a really, really good team.”