With Monday’s 2-0 win over rival Fruitport, the Lakers (9-3-1, 6-0 Lakes Eight) wrapped up at least a share of the regular-season Lakes Eight Conference title — the sixth straight year they've either won outright or shared the league championship.
"This is our biggest game of the season because of the rivalry," said Lakers' senior midfielder Chezney Peel. Peel was a sophomore on the top-ranked Lakers' team that was upset by the Trojans in the district tournament two years ago. That loss still haunts Peel and every other Laker who was a part of that team.
"Every time we play, that game's still in the back of our minds," Peel said. "We just don't ever want that feeling again."
Last year, Spring Lake went through the Lakes Eight regular season unbeaten, only to have Fruitport come back and snag a share of the league title with a win in the conference tournament.
To see more photos from Monday's game, click here.
The Lakers and the Trojans will likely meet again in the league tournament next week. If so, Fruitport coach Jeannie McClain knows her team needs to make some changes in order to have a chance at a victory.
"Spring Lake is a very quick team, very aggressive, and they took us out of our game," McClain said. "We were off our game tonight, although it could have been because of them.
"The nice thing about this game is, we see them again, and we know what we need to work on to show them a different team next time."
The Trojans fall to 9-4 overall and 5-1 in league games. The regular-season conference finale is Wednesday. Spring Lake plays at Fremont while Fruitport hosts Newaygo.
The Lakers controlled the first 40 minutes of play against the Trojans on Monday, but had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it.
Spring Lake came out even more focused and determined in the second half and took a 1-0 lead 10 minutes after halftime.
Lightening-quick forward Kelsey Kippe set up the game-winning goal as she won the ball on the left side and slotted a pass that got through Trojans' goalie Lindsey Armstrong. The ball rolled to Lakers’ senior Annie Cook, who was wide open in front of the goal. She calmly drilled a shot into the back netting for a 1-0 lead.
"That was all Kelsey," Cook said. "She did all the hard work. She gets the credit."
The Lakers made it 2-0 later in the half when freshman Mariada Gezon won the ball at midfield, drove down the field and slid a point-blank shot under a charging Armstrong.
"From the beginning, we knew we had this game skill-wise," Peel said. "It was just a matter of if we were going to bring it, and we did."
Spring Lake coach Jeremy Thelen was more than happy with his team’s effort and execution.
“We felt like we played a great first half, we just didn’t score,” Thelen said. “The only chances we gave up in the first half were free kicks. We said, ‘Let’s clean up our game, let’s not play so sloppy, let’s take it to them.’
“For that first 15 minutes after halftime, we were in control.”
Click here for a second photo gallery from Monday's contest.
The Lakers used their superior speed and the fantastic passing ability of sisters Katie and Molly Miedema to control the action for most of the night. Fruitport’s best chance to get on the scoreboard came in the closing minute when a free kick came to Debbie Pekel, who was unmarked at the back post. Her header sailed just wide of the goal.
The Lakers’ defense, including Leeann Latsch, Hailey Pellegrom and Kendall Meyers played well in front of goalie Audrey Gray.
“Those three in the back have played great together,” Thelen said.
Monday’s game had a bit more urgency for the Harken family.
Megan is a freshman on the Spring Lake varsity team while Sarah is a junior on the Fruitport squad.
“The team kind of talked about it before the game,” Thelen said. “They told (Megan) they wanted to help her out.”