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Laker Lashing

Duncan MacLean • May 21, 2018 at 12:35 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Grey skies Saturday did not bode well for the Grand Haven girls soccer team, as they braved the drawbridge to take on Spring Lake for a late-season rivalry matchup.

The Lakers thrived at home, putting a 6-1 thrashing on the Bucs, using intentional possession and aggressive scoring to blow past Grand Haven's defense.

The game began equal, with Grand Haven answering Spring Lake's first goal within seconds, but the cleanup score by Alli Keyser would remain Grand Haven's lone entry in the scorebook.

By halftime, Spring Lake lead 3-1, and they accelerated all the way to the buzzer.

"For my girls, this was about attitude more than anything," said Spring Lake head coach Becky May. "Last week, we didn't play well and it was a gut check for everyone. We got together and talked through the places on the field we had problems and worked strategically to fix those.

"We talked through what it would take to win a game over this team, and they bought it and executed."

"In our last game, we didn't play as much as a team. We played as individuals," said Spring Lake's Phoebe Saunders. "We came together and worked as one team and worked off one another instead of alone and it paid off."

Physicality was the name of the game with both teams throwing their weight around on defense and breakaways, showcasing the intense nature of the rivalry.

"It was very physical out there," May said. "We lost a starter last year in this game, so that was a huge concern for me this year. My forwards got a little roughed up, but they will be fine. Both teams were fighting so hard out there."

"That was the most physical game I have ever played in," said Saunders. "You just have to use your teammates to get through that.

Saunders led the Lakers with one goal and two assists on the day, while Laney Peasley netted two goals. Emily Batts, Taylor Colquitt and Madeline Zenas also tallied single goals to round out Spring Lake's scoring.

The Lakers' aggressive style handicapped them early with a bevy of offsides calls in the opening 20 minutes of play, but as the game wore on and their time of possession crept into dominating territory, the offense started to flow from the middle to the attacking third.

"We've had a stronger second half by a lot all year," May said. "Our play was more consistent with fewer calls and better ball movement in the second half. It took a half to get those crossing runs and parallel routes together and not get offsides. I think we just had one call in the second half and about 15 in the first."

"We really pressured the middle and were getting good through balls," Saunders said. "Our forwards were moving and our defense played really well."

Coach May credits her girls' adaptability for the second-half pull away.

"What is amazing about this group of kids is that they trust me at halftime," she said. "They make it so easy on me as a coach. I just have to figure out what we have to do and they do it. We are able to make these corrections from what we are doing in the first half and that's all I'm concerned about."

Meanwhile, an always patient Grand Haven team struggled mightily to get the ball to their star-studded front line.

"I can't decide if the rivalry is the reason we can't find our rhythm in this game or if it is the pace of play," McKessy said. "We didn't play our normal game. Once you start playing a kick-and-chase game it is hard to turn off. We just didn't play our game today."

As for the physical edge on the field, it is status quo for the Bucs coming out of the O-K Red Conference.

"We play teams like Rockford, like Grandville. We, compared to them, are not physical at all." McKessy said. "So, it is hard to come here, because we bring that game with us. It is hard to turn off.

"I just want to put this behind us, honestly. We didn't play our game. It is hard to grow from something you don't recognize.

"Our keeper played an outstanding game, she did so well. Keyser is always the hardest working player on the field and Jennifer Dear was working well, too. We had three games this week and three last week. By the end of the season, the girls are tired. We look forward to our game against Grandville on Monday."

The season-long grind continues, as both teams now face a quick turnaround as Grand Haven hosts O-K Red Conference foe Grandville on Monday at 7:15 p.m. and Spring Lake hosts O-K Blue Conference foe Comstock Park on Monday at 6:45 p.m.

GAMETRACK

The scoring got started early, as Spring Lake forward Emily Batts volleyed a nifty lob pass from Saunders over a charging Grand Haven keeper with 34:28 left in the first half.

Grand Haven responded instantly, taking the ball into the Spring Lake box for a shot. The ball fell short but the Lakers botched the clear attempt, allowing Alli Keyser to collect and fire home a goal at the 33:50 mark.

From there, it was all Spring Lake. Saunders picked up her second assist of the day with 26:52 left in the half, sending a breakaway through ball to a charging Peasley to go up 2-1.

With just under eight minutes to play, the Bucs' physical play got the best of them with a push in the box, handing the Lakers a penalty kick. Taylor Colquitt sent the goal home despite a great dive by Grand Haven's keeper.

At the half, Spring Lake led 3-1.

The Bucs got right to work in the second half, taking the opening possession down the field for their best look yet, but the shot from Keyser flew high and out of bounds. Spring Lake responded with a goal, this time off the head of Saunders, as Tia Leary played a perfect cross into the box two minutes into the second half.

The Lakers continued to push the pace, eating up game time with intentional possession, while the Bucs frantically tried to work the ball to their forwards.

Peasley struck again with 26 minutes remaining, winning a footrace for a loose ball and holding off her defender for the length of the field, eventually zipping a shot past Grand Haven's charging keeper.

With 10 minutes left to play, the Lakers sealed the deal on a long-range shot by Madeline Zenas, arcing a perfect ball from the sideline into the far side of the net.

Community pride

The rivalry matchup was the latest installment of the Bucs Pride fundraiser, giving players the chance to play in honor or in memory of a loved one who battled cancer. The functions raise money for the Bucs Pride organization, who help local families affected by cancer with gift baskets, services and retreat opportunities.

The venture into Spring Lake is a new mission of Bucs Pride, as they look to broaden their reach.

"We are hoping to rope Spring Lake in more," said Sharon Yonker at a Bucs Pride mini-golf event Saturday. "We want to make it more about community pride, because we help people all over."

The Drawbridge Classic with a cause will continue this weekend as the Grand Haven baseball and softball teams will both play Spring Lake in special Bucs Pride doubleheader events Friday, starting at 4 p.m.

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