The Lakers took on Comstock Park for the second time in a week in the MHSAA Division 2 Regional opening round. Spring Lake took a customary lopsided victory over their O-K Blue Conference foe, 13-4, to advance to the regional semifinal.
Two quick goals put the Lakers up early, but the first half was uncharacteristically close for this high-octane Spring Lake team.
A fresh offensive look and a few new faces got the start against the Panthers, which took some getting used to on both ends of the field.
“We were testing out some different things,” Spring Lake head coach Jason Vinkemulder. “We thought it would be a good idea to test out some different players and give a different offensive system we haven’t run before an opportunity.
“We were taking it seriously, but it was still more of a learning opportunity in the first half.”
McKenzie Ely, Meg Ready, Kate Vinkemulder, Gillian Gable and Madison Kaurich all netted goals in the first half, while exploring the fresh offense to give the Lakers a 6-3 lead at halftime. A far cry from the 16 first-half goals the last time Spring Lake took on Comstock Park.
“We played this team a week ago, and it was not a close game, so we decided we wouldn’t do that to these people twice in a row,” Vinkemulder said.
The second half brought with it a welcomed return to the norm for the Lakers, who settled back into their traditional offense. The return produced typical results, as they patiently extended their lead with eight goals in the second half.
“I think we all felt a little scrambled and a little off our game in the first half,” senior defender Grace VandenBosch said. “When we stopped it, we got our momentum back and focused more on playing our game.”
Ready grabbed two more goals in the second half, while Vinkemulder added two, and Audrey Van Linn, Ely and Josie Brown added one each.
The 13-4 victory advances to the regional semifinal round against perennial powerhouse East Grand Rapids. The Pioneers won a slew of titles to kick off the decade, but have fallen from championship grace recently.
The Laker leadership is ready for the challenge, reflecting on how far they have come over recent years.
“We are nervous, but excited,” VandenBosch said. “I really think we have a strong chance. I just want to go as far as we can in the postseason and make the most of it in my senior year.
“When I started lacrosse, we got destroyed every single game. Now, coming in here where we have a real chance to go far in the postseason and played so well all year, it is really nostalgic to look back and see how far we have come as a program and how far I have come as a player.
“We were very bad. We got killed every game, we couldn’t pass or catch. Going from that to 8-0 in our conference, winning games by 20 and with a chance in the playoffs is just really exciting.”
Coach Vinkemulder is slightly more cautious, acknowledging the prowess of their next opponent and the need for special preparation.
“Part of what we were doing in the first half was testing some new things we have never done before, part of the reason for that is EGR next week,” he said. “The better we can get at showing and adapting to different things the better we will be prepared.
“I’m sure they have seen what we do, and I want to have some different tricks up our sleeve.”
EGR is coming off a 20-2 dismantling of Lowell in their first-round game and a 25-1 victory in the pre-regional round and will be ready to hit the field running on May 24.
Opening draw for the regional semifinal is set for 7 p.m. at East Grand Rapids High School on Wednesday.