SL soccer sets sights on state finals

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:44 PM

Leeann Latsch and Molly Miedema were each pulled up to Spring Lake’s varsity girls soccer team midway through their freshman season.

That year, the Lakers were ranked No. 1 in the state. Led by Annie Steinlage, that Spring Lake team was favored to win the state championship, only to suffer a crushing defeat in the opening round of the state tournament to rival Fruitport.

Now as seniors, Latsch and Miedema are within one game of reaching the state finals on a team that came in much more under the radar than that 2010 squad.

Spring Lake (19-2) will meet Richand Gull Lake (19-1-1) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Plainwell High School in the Division 2 state semifinals.

The winner advances to the state championship game on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Williamsburg.

“We’re going to go out there, fight hard and see where it takes us,” said Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen, “and hope it takes us a few more games.”

Both the Lakers and the Blue Devils are defensive-minded teams. They’ve both surrendered less than 10 goals on the year.

For Spring Lake, that number is all the more impressive because of the shuffling Thelen had to do because of an injury to starting middle back Courtney Dockery.

Dockery suffered a season-ending knee injury 10 games into the year, forcing sophomore Alex Prout to slide into the middle and junior Becca Boven to take over as an outside back. That pair, along with senior Hailey Pellegrom, has been fantastic, greatly limiting the number of shots on goal.

The goalie position was locked down by junior Nora Reed for the Lakers’ first 19 games. In their 20th, a regional semifinal win over Grand Rapids Christian, Reed was dinged up and gave way to sophomore Ayna Gordon, who had been a solid field player before being slowed by an injury of her own.

Gordon got the starting nod in the Lakers’ regional title game against Plainwell and came up with several clutch saves, including a penalty kick stop, to help the Lakers advance to the state semifinals.

Thelen wouldn’t tip his hat as to which goalie will get the start against Gull Lake.

“We’re going to stick with our defense, because it’s pretty tried and true,” he said. “If anything, we’ll mess with the offense a little bit, but I think we can handle that. We have so much depth, so many people who can score and can do different things for us.”

Some tinkering may be necessary because Miedema hurt her knee against Grand Rapids Christian, then aggravated that injury against Plainwell.

“She’s a game-time decision,” Thelen said about Miedema, a key component in the Lakers’ midfield. “She has not practiced.”

Both Latsch and freshman midfielder Morgan Carey were also banged up in the Lakers’ regional games, but Thelen said both are at full strength heading into Wednesday’s contest.

Thelen said he’s done his best to get a feel for what kind of team the Lakers will face in Gull Lake.

“I’ve made phone calls to opposing coaches, looked up scores, but no, we don’t go out and watch games,” he said. “I have seen a bit of one of their games on Youtube, but what does that really tell you?

“They’re a pretty solid team as far as possession goes. They move the ball quickly side to side. They have a solid three players up the middle of the field, but their leading goal scorer, Rachel Fouts, got a concussion the other night, so we’re wondering what her status is. Their other best player is Carley Rice, their center midfielder.”

Thelen is no stranger to big games, having led the Lakers’ boys team to the state finals two years ago.

This Spring Lake girls team has a similar problem to that Lakers’ boys team — depth all over the field.

“Even the girls that haven’t gotten in to games lately, they’d be starting for a lot of our rival schools,” Thelen said. “We’re that deep. I feel bad for some of these girls who are fighting for a spot on a top-10 team in the state.”

The other state semifinal features Bloomfield Hills Marian (17-2-3) and Fenton (17-1-1). Marian was the No. 2-ranked team at the end of the regular season. Gull Lake occupied the No. 3 spot in the final state rankings, followed by Fenton at No. 6 and Spring Lake at No. 9.

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