“I’m thrilled. We needed this to come back from last year,” said Lakers’ junior Morgan Gagnon, who was a sophomore on the Lakers’ team that lost to the Trojans last spring. Her sister, Lauren, was a senior on last year’s team, which was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state before losing to the Trojans in the district opener.
“Last year was absolutely devastating,” Gagnon said. “My sister and I would look at each other and just start crying. That went on for months; actually, still to this day.”
After Saturday’s commanding win, Gagnon and the Lakers can hold their heads high.
Leeann Latsch scored the Lakers’ first goal on a free kick from just outside the Trojans’ penalty box, then Katie Smith stole a throw-in and scored past Trojans’ goalie Lindsay Armstrong for a 2-0 halftime lead.
Gagnon scored the back-breaker midway through the second half as she intercepted a Trojans’ clearing attempt and pounded a shot into the open net for a 3-0 lead.
“I have a great group of girls who work really hard,” Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen said. “It’s Fruitport, and we knew this would be a battle, especially in this heat, so we subbed a lot and won 50-50 balls.”
This was the third meeting of the season between the two Lakes Eight Conference powers. The Lakers won the first meeting during the regular season, then the Trojans bounced back with a shootout win in the championship game of the league tournament.
Gagnon said losing to the Trojans in the conference finals served as a wake-up call.
“That game slipped away,” she said. “We should have gotten them the second time, but this game really proved that we deserved it.”
Fruitport coach David Hulings said his team simply wasn’t able to match the Lakers’ effort on Saturday.
“The better team won,” Hulings said. “They deserved to go on. My hats off to Jeremy. He had to replace a lot of very good players and he did a great job. We’re not defined by one win, and we’re never defined by one loss. You have to come prepared all the time. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.”
The Lakers were a .500 team midway through the season, but with Saturday’s win have now won eight of their last nine games.
“If you look at our .500 struggles, we were playing the big power schools,” Thelen said. “The Unity game is when things really started to click for us. We played a flat-back four for the first time and were successful. We lost to them 2-0, but turned around and beat Fruitport the next game.”