The Knights’ momentum was no trouble for the Lakers, who ended their Division 2 district semifinals matchup 8-0 in just 45 minutes. The win earns Spring Lake a spot in their third straight district finals game.
“It feels great,” said Spring Lake head coach Becky May. “This is what you work for. To be rewarded for all the hard work we have put in feels great.
“I really enjoyed playing Kenowa,” May said. “We play the same teams over and over it seems like, so it is nice to see some new faces and get to try some new things.”
Unstoppable possession and pinpoint shooting gave the Lakers a 6-0 lead coming into halftime, two short of the MHSAA mercy rule. Eager to get out of the sun, Spring Lake netted two goals in the first five minutes of the second half to seal the victory.
Kenowa Hills never managed a shot.
Taylor Colquitt led the Lakers with a hat-trick of goals, followed by Emily Batts and Laney Peasley scoring two, while Kaleigh Fritsche and Phoebe Saunders each netted one.
Spring Lake knocked the surging Knights off their high horse early, netting their first goal just under three minutes into the game. At the 37:29 mark, Colquitt collected an assist from Saunders in the box and calmly sent home the game’s opening goal.
Patient and consistent possession earned the Lakers all the chances they needed to score and made for a boring day in net for Kamryn Lewkowski. Four minutes later, at 38:12, Peasley won a ball at the Kenowa end line, deked two defenders and buried a close-range goal, unassisted.
A 10-minute scoring drought ensued, as the Knights’ defense picked up and Spring Lake put a handful of shots into the arms of the Kenowa keeper.
At 23:05, the Lakers earned a corner-kick opportunity that was sent long over the crowded box. The pass was corralled and sent back into play through two Lakers, finally finding the feet of Kaleigh Fritsche, who sent home Spring Lake’s fourth goal.
With 16:24 left to play in the opening half, Spring Lake made it 5-0 as Batts lifted a cross-cage pass to Madeline Zenas, who one-timed the assist back in front of the net to Peasley, who volleyed home the acrobatic goal.
The final goal of the half came off Batts’ feet, as she exploited a gaping hole in the middle of the Knights’ defense, receiving a through ball from Colquitt for the one-on-none goal.
The 6-0 lead didn’t hold long after halftime, as Colquitt completed her hat trick just 58 seconds into the second half, netting a long, low angle boot from the edge of the box.
With 35:21 left to play, perpetual assist girl Saunders took a goal for herself with a good-old-fashioned strike from the top of the box.
Thursday’s semifinal matchup was the first for the Lakers this year on Fruitport’s grass field, where Saturday’s district finals will be played. The terrain is well groomed, but a slower than the field turf at Spring Lake. Getting to know the surface, and how it would respond to the Lakers’ incessant passing and possession game was a top priority Thursday.
“We focused on one thing today — the surface,” May said. “The grass really sucks up the ball. You can hit it with the same pace off your foot and it doesn’t arrive at the same time as is does on turf. So, today we wanted to continue to possess and communicate like we do, and get used to the surface so we are ready for Saturday.”
Spring Lake’s third straight appearance in the district finals Saturday also marks third straight time they have faced off with Fruitport in the title game and fifth straight time the two have met in the district tournament.
The Lakers haven’t been eliminated by their rivals since 2014, when the Trojans took a 2-1 victory in the opening round of the tournament. In their two finals matchups, Spring Lake has won by scores of 5-2 in 2016 and 3-0 in 2017.
May takes no comfort in the streak.
“It is girls soccer, so at any point in time you can lose a game,” May said. “There is something about the tournament where teams can blow up and do things they aren’t expected to do. So, we kept that in mind today and will keep that in mind heading into Saturday.
“That game, for us, is all about execution and continuing what we have been doing all year.”
Kickoff for the district finals is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Fruitport High School on Saturday.