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SL girls soccer team one win away from regional title

Josh VanDyke • Jun 8, 2017 at 12:36 AM

The Spring Lake girls soccer team has been impressive all season, but Tuesday’s comeback win over Cadillac might be more awe-inspiring than any of their other wins this spring.

And there’s been a lot of them -- 20 to be exact.

After the team looked out-of-sync and flustered by the long-ball approach that the Vikings played with, the Lakers regrouped at halftime in what appeared to a team-building moment on the Cedar Springs High School track.

Then, things got worse.

Cadillac’s standout forward Alexis Little won two races to the ball and finished both plays for goals that netted the Vikings what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.

For most teams, that would have been the nail in the coffin and an respectable end to a great season. But, this Spring Lake squad seems determined to finish its incredible season with an ending of equal prestige.

“They dug deep, made the hustle plays and did what they needed to do in order to get the win,” Spring Lake head coach Becky May said after the game. “We’ve been down a couple times this year, but these girls never give up. It is just unbelievable that girls this age have that kind of instinct to not give up.”

When the Cadillac team got comfortable with its two-goal lead, junior forward Emily Batts went to work and tracked down every 50/50 ball that was on her side of the field.

Those hustle plays added up, and eventually, it resulted in Spring Lake getting back in the game. On the first goal, Batts ran down a long ball and raced past a pair of defenders before lobbing a perfect cross to teammate Laney Peasley, who chipped the ball past the keeper to cut the deficit in half. Shortly after that, Batts raced down the field again, beating the keeper one-on-one to knot the game at 2-2.

By then, everyone in attendance could feel the momentum shift 180 degrees. It was only a matter of time before the Lakers took control of the game, which they did with five minutes left on a laser shot from Batts that hit the crossbar and bounced in to give the Lakers a 3-2 lead and hold off the Vikings for the win.

Now, the Lakers prepare for another daunting task in the Division 2 regional final against undefeated Forest Hills Northern Huskies (18-0-3), who defeated DeWitt 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout in Tuesday’s second regional semifinal match.

Forest Hills Northern is ranked No. 2 in Division 2 and finished as the state runner-up last spring.

Spring Lake’s midfield dominance will be tested with the Huskies’ standout senior midfielder Natalie Belsit leading the attack for Forest Hills Northern.

The Central Michigan University commit has 14 goals and nine assists to her name this season, and is the heart and soul of the team as a two-year team captain. If the Lakers are going to come out of Cedar Springs with a win, they will need to find a way to slow down the talented All-State performer.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Spring Lake will have to avoid any slow starts against the Huskies, as they’ve got the firepower to put teams away early in games. They scored two quick goals against DeWitt on Tuesday before letting the Panthers back into the game in the second half.

This game will pit both teams’ strengths against each other, as the Lakers and Huskies both rely on their midfield play to dictate tempo and possession.

If Spring Lake can get off to a quick start and put the pressure on Forest Hills Northern, I like the Lakers’ chances of stymying the Huskies’ attack and taking home the hardware. In order to do that, they’ll have to win the middle third of the field, finish on any scoring chances they get and play keep away from Belsit.

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