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Lax Jam is sweet, with a sour finish

Duncan MacLean • Apr 24, 2017 at 7:30 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — A celebration of lakeshore lacrosse and healthy in-town rivalries ended with a lesson in endurance for host Spring Lake on Saturday.

The Spring Lake, Grand Haven Lax Jam pits the entirety of the Bucs and Lakers lacrosse programs against each other over a full day of competition. From elementary school through high school the teams square off, culminating in the varsity battle as the sun sets.

Both teams played emotional, hard-fought games on Friday night, and the Bucs’ legs held up longer — as they defeated Spring lake, 10-5.

“This was a big game for us,” Grand Haven head coach Lee Ingalls said. “We’ve had some difficult games where it just seemed like some aspect of our play was missing.

“Tonight, we were really moving out there. The thing about this series is that it could be the complete opposite score the next time we play.”

The sentiment was lost on a disappointed Spring Lake head coach, Doug Sharp, who would have liked to finish off the day at home with a win.

“It was a great day of lacrosse,” he said. “Good competitive games from start to finish. I think there was some fatigue, but I don’t want to blame that, they (Grand Haven) played Friday, too.

“They are a good team, who seems to like to ruin my lax fest every year.”

Grand Haven was coming off an O-K Red matchup with Rockford on Friday, while the Lakers battled Forest Hills Eastern into overtime, falling by one.

The extra lacrosse proved to be the difference maker, as Spring Lake hung with the Bucs early, but eventually ran out of gas.

Through the opening period, it was all tied at two. Grand Haven’s Alex Weykamp got things started with a rip on the run in the opening minutes of play, but the Lakers responded heartily, with Alec Kieft grabbing an iso goal nearly one minute later.

Grand Haven’s Alex Franczek checked into the scoring sheet with a submarine rip into the top corner off a crisp cross-cage pass from a fellow attackman.

With just over two minutes to go in the first quarter, the Lakers drew a man-up opportunity, grabbing a quick goal at the hands of Isiah Griswold.

The second quarter brought with it sharper Grand Haven defense, holding the Lakers to just one goal through the period and killing two penalties.

Colby Brown managed Spring Lake’s second quarter goal, besting Grand Haven keeper Gabe Libetrieu with a well-placed bounce shot.

Weykamp and Franczek continued to light up the Spring Lake defensive unit. Weykamp scored two in the second period; one on another alley doge and one solo rip from way downtown. Franczek set about dissecting the Spring Lake defense piece-by-piece with dime passes.

Ian McClain was the first to benefit, burying a cross-cage pass from a dodging Franczek.

At halftime, the Bucs led, 5-3, and would cruise to victory from there, allowing just two more Spring Lake goals.

One came on a man-up play in the third quarter, as Griswold fed Gavin Alban in the middle for a turn-and-shoot goal, before Brown finished off the Laker scoring with his second of the day as the final period wore on.

Franczek exploded in the second half for four more goals, while Weykamp added one to bring the game to its final tally.

Barking Bucs

The Grand Haven squad took a day to refocus their competitive edge before their tough weekend of games, dedicating a practice as “competition day”.

“We broke the entire roster down into small groups and went to work,” Ingalls said of the practice. “Every rep of every drill was a competition. We got our energy level back up and it made us compete a little harder. I wanted them to work like dogs.

“There was a winner and loser after every drill, the winner got better by doing extra sprints and pushups and the loser had to shag balls. The whole idea was that winners get stronger and winners get better.”

The sharpened skills and attitude served the Bucs’ offense well, while a few personnel tweaks shored up the defense.

“We moved Kyle Eveland, who had been a long-stick midfielder, down to close defense playing the crease,” Ingalls said. “We needed some more athleticism down there.

“Drake Morley is killing it, Eveland, Brandon Diaz and pretty much anyone else who is playing defense for us is playing at a very high level right now. Gabe Libetreu made some big saves against an athletic Spring Lake team.”

Live rivalry

The Lax Jam has been showcasing two growing lacrosse programs for six years now, with the Bucs typically having the edge over the newer Spring Lake program, but the smaller team is growing quickly, fielding multiple teams at the elementary school levels.

“It is incredible,” Sharp said of the magnitude of this year’s jam. “There is a lot of kids playing lacrosse in Grand Haven and Spring Lake, it is fun to see it.”

The two teams split their meetings last season, as the Spring Lake squad has risen to tier-one play in recent years, in part due to the Lax Jam tradition.

“We used to beat them all the time,” Grand Haven defenseman Drake Morley said. “They have gotten a lot better the last few years and it has gotten really competitive.”

“We started this five or six years ago,” Ingalls said. “It is a chance to grow the lacrosse culture around the area and spread community awareness about the sport. Spring Lake has grown a lot since we started this.”

The regular season meetings are not the only exposure these two teams have to each other. Many of the players compete together in summer leagues on travel teams.

“It is cool because it is good competition and they are really close,” Morley said. “I play with a lot of them in the summer, so it is cool to play against them, because I know most of them.”

The familiarity has bred a higher level of competition in the battle for Lakeshore supremacy.

“We know each other so well, that you’re not going to surprise them with anything. It is going to come down to execution,” Ingalls said. “All these guys know each other. When we come out here and compete against each other, its like another Civil War.”

While the Bucs came out on top at Lax Jam, there are no guarantees in this rivalry anymore, which will be renewed before long, on April 28.

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