The Lakers cleaned house during the O-K Blue Conference season, finishing undefeated in league play and compiling a 19-2-1 overall record heading into today’s Division 2 regional semifinal matchup with Cadillac (18-1-1) at 5 p.m. in Cedar Springs.
The Lakers only two losses this season came at the hands of undefeated Mona Shores (ranked No. 3 in Division 1) and Hudsonville Unity Christian (ranked No. 2 in Division 3), so it’s safe to say that this group isn’t afraid of a little competition.
“These girls are used to big games, and I think they’re ready for regionals,” said head coach Becky May after Saturday’s district championship win. “Coming in, I knew quite a few of these girls, but I didn’t know what type of a team we had. I think we’ve really meshed well in all aspects of our game, and we’re in a really good position to make a run in the playoffs.”
Cadillac defeated Ludington in their first match of the season, and May hopes to draw some comparisons from that match.
“I spoke to the Ludington coach after our game on Saturday. They played Cadillac in a tight, 2-1 game,” she said. “Their coach said they would field a well-rounded squad with no particular girls that stood out as an individual star.
“The one thing I look for that is that this team is hard to defend. Any team we face usually has a single playmaker or possibly two or three standouts that help the rest of the supporting cast be effective. According to the Ludington coach, they do not. I would anticipate a good match between the two teams, as we also field an evenly distributed team in terms of talent.”
That balance can create match-up problems for most teams, but May insists that her team’s ability to possess the ball and find the open seam for scoring chances will create the difference in the game.
“There is no one for us to mark and there is no one for them to mark. It truly will be a total-team effort in order for either team to win,” she said. “My gameplan will be to do what we have been successful at all year. We will play a possession game out of our defense, control and dominate the middle third of the field and play a physical, high-pressure attack.”
Spring Lake uses a non-traditional approach to their attack, which has proven to be difficult for opposing teams to slow down for a full 80-minute match.
“The tendency in soccer is to play a style where you drop the ball to your full backs and send your fast runners up top,” May said on Saturday. “We’ve been very resistant to that. That’s not really our style. We play more through our midfielders, spread the defense out and find the seam and capitalize on that. It’s not a popular style of soccer, but we use it to our advantage.”
After seeing Spring Lake dominate possession and shutout a defensive-minded Reeths-Puffer squad and a high-octane Fruitport attack last week, I find it hard to believe that their midfield play will shrink away.
While Cadillac has enjoyed an impressive season, I don’t think they’ll be able to match Spring Lake for a full 80 minutes. I expect a low scoring first half, with the Lakers pulling away late for the win.
FINAL SCORE: Spring Lake 3, Cadillac 1.