Turf Wars

Josh VanDyke • Aug 27, 2018 at 12:55 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force?

On Saturday, in a rivalry matchup that featured more collisions than scoring chances, the Grand Haven goal-scoring machine and Spring Lake defensive juggernaut battled on the field turf at Spring Lake High School.

Both teams had scoring opportunities slip away, and in the end, the dreaded zeros covered the scoreboard in a hard-fought, physical test that was deemed a draw at the end of regulation.

For host Spring Lake, their young, inexperienced players learned some valuable in-game lessons about playing a tough, quality opponent and standing their ground with a stout defensive effort.

"Last year, we played them to a scoreless tie, and we entered that game with a defensive mindset," reflected Spring Lake head coach Jeremy Thelen. "This year, we wanted to really press the attack. We did not come into this game with a mindset of sitting back and defending. We had some scoring chances that just didn't go for us.

"Nick (Kazanas) had a shot go right across in the first half, and Eli (Denslow) had a shot ring off the backpost in the second half. There weren't a ton of opportunities to go around today, so those were tough bounces."

Thelen was especially pleased with the composure of his younger players who were called upon in big moments during Saturday's match.

"We are a really young team this is trying to find their footing in the soccer world early on in the season," he added. "I did really like how we played defensively. Aiden Parker, our freshman goalie, was great today and the moment wasn't too big for him. He made a couple nice saves in big moments when we really needed it.

"Malachi (Mulder) is the veteran guy that is playing in front of him on the field, and then we have guys like Liam Beck and Porter Saunders out there too. Saunders is a freshman that we pulled up to play in the outside back spot. He showed some big strides today.

"Armani Perez played left-back and did his job very well. Eli Denslow, Tommy Fine and Luke Bronold were aggressive on the attack and played hard from start to finish.

"I was extremely proud of the grit we played with today. I saw a lot of growth today. We played 60 great minutes against Fruitport last Thursday, but I saw a complete game today.

"We want to keep taking steps forward. I think we gained a lot of confidence today."

Photo Gallery: Grand Haven, Spring Lake play to scoreless tie

For first-year Grand Haven head coach Nick Tejchma, his first taste of the rivalry was a productive one.

"It's a great rivalry between the two towns and it's a community is very passionate about soccer and there's also a lot of history between the two programs," he said. "A lot of these kids know each other really well from playing travel league together, so it was fun to see them playing against each other in a competitive game and really battle it out.

"There's also a lot of respect between the two programs, too. Spring Lake is a great team and their defense was tough today. Their goalie shut us down with the opportunities that we did have. "

A few missed opportunities may have some Buccaneers wanting another crack at their rivals from across the bridge, but the ability of the team to continue to pour on the attack, even when the ball wasn't going into the net, should be a nice reference point later on in the season.

"We have to finish those opportunities in the future," added Tejchma. "I think these types of matches will make us better because we got pushed to perform better today. It was a good game, and we can learn a lot from this, so that's the most important part.

"We are strong when we play our game. When the communication is there and the passes are connecting, we're a hard team to slow down. I really like where we are at right now, and even though we didn't get a result today, this will be something we can point to down the road during our conference season."

Grand Haven travels to Rockford today at 7:15 p.m., while Spring Lake will host Mona Shores on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.

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