Strahl, Sanchez power SL soccer to Div. 2 semifinals

For the first time in two decades, the Spring Lake High School boys soccer team advanced to the MHSAA state semifinals after defeating Grand Rapids Christian on Saturday, 2-0, in the Division 1 regional championship game. With the victory, the No. 2-ranked Lakers advance to Wednesday's state semifinal clash with No. 8-ranked Mattawan High School. The Wildcats upset the No. 3 team in the state, Mason, 1-0, in overtime.
Tribune Staff
Oct 31, 2011

The Lakers were last crowned regional champions in 1991, but fell short to Stevensenville-Lakeshore in the semifinals. In 2005, Spring Lake reached the regional championship, but exited the tournament following a 2-1 loss to Hudsonville Unity Christian High School.

“We’ve been knocking on the door in the last couple of years,” said Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen, whose team is now 22-1. “We’ve been behind some really good teams. Two or three years ago we lost to Forest Hills Eastern in districts; they were the No. 2 team in the state. Last year we lost to Northview in districts; they were the No. 1 team and were state champions. So we’ve been waiting for our time and here it is.”

Leading goal scorer Alec Strahl says the Lakers have “bigger plans” than to repeat the misfortunes of previous teams in the post season.

“We aren’t content with just this,” Strahl said.  “We’re not going to go home and end our season yet. We’re going to keep playing hard to extend it.”

Strahl opened the scoring in the first half on Saturday when he redirected a cross sent into the box with a glancing header past the Eagles’ goalkeeper.

“He’s very opportunistic, he’s quick and he puts himself in good spots,” Thelen said. “We scored a goal early and were able to set in and calm ourselves down.”

Junior K.J. Sanchez curled a shot to the low left corner of the net and put the Lakers up 2-0 before halftime.

The Eagles created opportunities in the second half but could not find a way past the Spring Lake defense. Senior Taylor Pruis sped through on a breakaway and had a few late chances, with two forcing Spring Lake senior goalkeeper Harry Kriger to make diving saves.

With 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, Pruis had a penalty kick opportunity to put Grand Rapids Christian on the board. Kriger dove low to deny Pruis’s shot and maintain the clean sheet for the Lakers.

Thelen congratulated Grand Rapids Christian head coach Larry Klaasen following the Lakers win. The game was Klaasen’s last as the Eagles’ head coach.

“He’s been a rock in the West Michigan soccer community,” Thelen said. “He’s done a lot of great things here at Grand Rapids Christian and in the soccer community.”

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