The Panthers’ talented junior duo of Erica Goodenough and Addy Schaar combined to score all five of their team’s goals and accounted for three assists as well, helping DeWitt clinch back-to-back regional titles with a 5-1 victory over the Lakers.
“Goodenough is a member of the Dream Team, and the last forward I’ve seen that was on that team was Annie,” Thelen said.
DeWitt, the No. 10-ranked team in Division 2, improves to 18-6 overall and advances to Wednesday’s state semifinals, where it will meet Plainwell. Spring Lake sees its season end at 14-7, and a step short of reaching its first-ever semifinals appearance.
Goodenough and Schaar possessed enough speed and savvy that DeWitt could have some of its midfielders cheat back in its 4-4-2 defensive formation, which completely kept Spring Lake’s attack bottled up.
Spring Lake forward Katie Albright said the Lakers tried to keep their forwards staggered and push the ball ahead, but on a quick moving artificial turf field and with the aggressive Panthers always around the ball, Spring Lake had few open looks.
“It seemed like it was always one on four,” Albright said.
As a result, the Lakers failed to record a shot on goal throughout the first half.
“Our defense did a fantastic job,” DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh said. “It was our plan to try to score early in the game so we could play comfortably the rest of the way.”
Goodenough made that happen, as she scored both of DeWitt’s first-half goals.
Albright marveled at DeWitt’s skill at moving the ball across the field to its playmakers, which often kept the Lakers chasing.
DeWitt’s superb passing was on display in the 16th minute of the first half. Junior midfielder Callen O’Keefe sent a difficult pass on an angle past a pair of Spring Lake defenders to Goodenough, who calmly lofted a soft shot to the left corner and past Lakers’ goalie Molly Cooke for a 1-0 lead.
Goodenough struck again with 11:54 in the half, due to a bad bounce on a Lakers’ header at the 18-yard line. The ball glanced backward to Goodenough, who made a shifty move and fired. Cooke got a hand on the shot, but couldn’t prevent it from rolling into the net.
The Panthers’ 1-2 punch of Goodenough and Schaar seemed to only get faster in the second half, as they combined to build a 5-0 advantage with still 18 minutes remaining.
Goodenough’s highlight-reel goal came six minutes into the half. Schaar sent a nearly blind cross near the corner kick flag that sailed to a pair of waiting Spring
Lake players inside the goalie box. But Goodenough — out of nowhere — sprung between the two Lakers and appeared to ricochet the ball off her shoulder into the goal.
DeWitt’s streak of holding its postseason opponents scoreless was finally snapped late in the half, as Albright sent a sky rocket shot from about 45 yards away that was badly misplayed by DeWitt goalie Lauren Earley and bounced over her head into the net.
It offered little consolation on a tough ending for the Lakers, which had six seniors play their last game.
“I have to give a lot of credit to our seniors,” Thelen said. “They’re great kids. And getting to the regional finals and the way we played all season, they should be proud.”
“This team got so close throughout the season and we really started to put everything together,” added Albright, a transfer from Grand Haven. “I love this team, but it’s hard to end it like this.”