By JAMES COOK
---- — MUSKEGON — Back to Muskegon it is.
Bellaire had hoped for a much shorter trip to Traverse City today for its Division 4 soccer regional final, but Muskegon Catholic Central's 2-0 semifinal win over Leland assured the Eagles of having to make their second three-hour trek Muskegon this week.
Likewise, Traverse City West will return to Midland for its Division 1 regional final.
Bellaire advanced to the regional final with a 5-2 victory over Big Rapids Crossroads.
"We expect pretty much the same game as (Tuesday)," Muskegon Catholic coach Bill Moulatisious said. "They look like a quality team. Hopefully, we can get out of there and see our old rivals Covenant Christian as well. We'll have a tough road up ahead of us, but we're up for the challenge."
Leland was able to play evenly with the Crusaders in Tuesday's regional semifinal, but Muskegon Catholic (15-7-1) was the only one to convert scoring opportunities into goals on the scoreboard. If the Comets and Eagles had both won, the regional final would have been played tonight in Traverse City.
"It's going to be a good game," Leland coach Joe Burda said of the Bellaire-Muskegon CC matchup. "I think they're even. I don't think Bellaire has seen a lot of competition as good as this team. I don't think five or six goals are going to be scored in this one. I didn't expect it in ours. I thought two goals would win it, which it did. I'd expect the same — 2-0 or 2-1 in the next round."
Eagles forward Denny Hall said the team was looking forward to a rematch with Leland, which routed Bellaire 9-1 in districts last year.
“It didn’t turn out that well for us,” Hall said. “But we were a younger team, and I think it’ll be a little different this year.”
Instead, Bellaire will be playing the Crusaders on the soccer pitch at the same time Traverse City St. Francis is taking on Muskegon Catholic on the gridiron across town.
Meanwhile, TC West (15-6-3) is waiting for its regional final Saturday against Rochester Adams (9-5-6) in Midland at 1 p.m.
The Titans moved on with a 2-1 overtime win Tuesday against Walled Lake Central, giving West its second straight postseason victory in extra time. It took the Titans until a shootout to earn a 2-1 district final win over Saginaw Heritage.
If West wins Saturday, it'll move on to the semifinals Oct. 30 at Lake Orion against the winner of Friday's tilt between Utica and Bloomfield Hills.
Only one of the Division 1 teams ranked in the coaches association final top 10 rankings is left — No. 3 Ann Arbor Skyline. Honorable mention picks Plymouth Salem and Okemos are also still alive, and all three are in the opposite half of the bracket as West.
In Division 4, No. 10 Bellaire (23-1) is one of four top-10 teams remaining. The winner of Friday's matchup with honorable mention pick Muskegon CC will move on to face the winner of No. 1 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian and No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett in the state semifinals at Cedar Springs.