Kammeraad’s Lakers lost just twice last fall — to Grand Haven early in the season, then to Auburn Hills Avondale in the Division 2 state finals.
The Lakers avenged their first loss in impressive fashion on Thursday, beating the Buccaneers, 6-0. In the process, they sent a message that they’re certainly capable of making it back to the state finals, where they can attempt to avenge their second loss.
“This feels so good because we haven’t beaten them every year I’ve been here, and it feels great to come out and win,” said Kammeraad, who accounted for half of the Lakers’ goals as he recorded a hat trick. “Last year we lost two games, to them and in the state finals. It feels good to beat them, and it feels really good to win 6-0.”
The game drew large, passionate crowds from both schools, and the Lakers’ Noah Ellingboe gave the visiting fans reason to celebrate just 10 minutes into the game when he took possession of a rebound and hit a blistering shot that went off the fingertips of Bucs’ goalie Corey VanderLaan and into the net.
Just 30 seconds later, the Lakers’ pressure forced a Bucs’ turnover, setting up Kammeraad for a wide-open shot that he buried into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
The Buccaneers looked to get a little momentum on their side late in the half when Christian Dault flicked a ball backward into the net following a Grand Haven free kick, but the goal was waved off because of an offsides penalty.
The Bucs had another goal disallowed by an offsides call early in the second half, then a few minutes later, Kammeraad scored his second goal to put the visiting Lakers firmly in control.
Adam Clauss scored off a volley to make it 4-0, then Ben Keller buried a shot for a 5-0 lead. Kammeraad then put an exclamation point on the win with his third goal late in the contest.
“We had a couple decisions to make with Riley, because he hasn’t been finishing very well for us lately,” said Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen, whose team is now 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the first Div. 2 poll of the year. “We started him at outside left (midfield) today, kind of took some pressure off him, then moved him up front and he did his job.”
“I knew I could beat them up top because of my speed, and I just took advantage of it,” Kammeraad added.
Sophomore goalie Joe Czajka made several nice saves for the Lakers to preserve the shutout. Defender Kyle Zietlow, also a sophomore, was outstanding from his sweeper position.
Clauss also played a fantastic game as he helped the Lakers control the middle of the field.
Thelen acknowledged that a win over his alma matter is always sweet, but was more concerned about what this win meant for his squad going forward.
“More than beating Grand Havne, the big story is, I have stressed to the guys time in and time out, if you play good soccer, the score will take care of itself,” said Thelen, who cautioned his players not to let Thursday’s win go to their heads.
“We still have to come out day in and day out and play our game. We could turn around and not play this well next week, and Fruitport could knock us down. I knew we could play at this level.”
For Grand Haven, the loss was a disappointing result for a young team trying to put together the pieces after losing a majority of its players from last year’s state finalist squad.
“I don’t want to keep saying we’re a young team, because eventually, you need to grow up,” coach Aaron Dean said. “Clearly, this loss is not the end of our season. This doesn’t affect our conference, and it doesn’t affect our end-of-season goals.
“There are certain things we’ll look at from this game and try to improve on.”
Junior Varsity: Grand Haven (3-1-1) scored a pair of second-half goals to beat Spring Lake, 2-0. Trevar DeVries and Connor Davison scored for the Bucs, while Logan Snider had an assist. The Bucs’ defenders, including Joe Wisniewski, Adam Greer, Snider and Jesse Adamovich limited the Lakers to one shot in each half, helping goalies Riley Taylor and Garrison Mast combine for the shutout.