High school athletes always want to go out on top, to make their senior year one to remember.
Nic Ellingboe wasn’t sure if that would be the case or not.
Ellingboe helped guide Spring Lake’s varsity soccer team all the way to the Division 2 state finals as a sophomore, then as a junior, was a part of a Lakers’ team that was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state before falling in the regional finals.
Coming into practice this fall, the prospects of matching those previous two seasons were bleak.
“I mean, we returned three starters,” Ellingboe said. “Whenever you only return that many kids, you’re a little worried, and I was worried.”
It wasn’t so bad during the summer leading up to his senior year.
“During drop-ins, a lot of the guys from last year’s team would come play, so it was like they hadn’t even left,” Ellingboe said. “It wasn’t until we had the team assembled and started playing games that I realized it would be a lot different.”
For Ellingboe, whose teams had gone 44-3-1 over the past two years, getting off to a sluggish start was tough to swallow.
A loss to Forest Hills Northern on Aug. 29 dropped the Lakers to 2-3-1 on the season.
Ellingboe and his fellow returners did their best to help their younger teammates get up to speed with the faster, more physical play at the varsity level.
“At the beginning of the season, we were giving the younger guys advice during games,” Ellingboe said. “Just simple things like taking another touch, taking the ball farther down line and having a cross.
“Now, a lot of those younger kids have really stepped up and they’re feeling more comfortable.”
It took a while for Ellingboe to settle in as well. Always an offensive player for his club soccer teams, Ellingboe had been a fixture on defense for the Lakers. He moved to forward this fall and led the team in scoring, but when needed, he would be called upon to drop back and play defense.
As the season neared its end, Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen realized Ellingboe’s greatest contributions to the team came on the offensive end, and that’s never been more clear than in last week’s regional tournament.
In a semifinal win over East Grand Rapids, Ellingboe scored a hat trick, leading the Lakers to a 4-1 win.
In the regional finals against Forest Hills Northern, Ellingboe scored the game’s lone goal on a header, sending his team into Wednesday’s Division 2 state semifinals.
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