In their previous three meetings, the Lakers have escaped with narrow one-goal victories over the Bucs and that tradition would continue this time around, as well.
Spring Lake would score three goals in a two-minute barrage in the second half to take a lead and the visitors fended off a late rally by Grand Haven to score a 6-5 road win.
"We've always had one-goal games with them these past three years and they have always been super intense matchups," said Spring Lake senior Josie Brown. "These games can get kind of crazy, so we were just focusing on the details — passing, catching, getting all the groundballs. We just really wanted to make sure we were watching our turnovers and protecting the ball when we had it.
"We also didn't want to get too emotional and lose our heads late in the game when we had a one-goal lead. It gets really hectic when they are trying to attack you late and get something going, but we did a good job of playing within ourselves and staying true to who we are."
Spring Lake freshman Mason Carey got the Lakers on the board early for a 1-0 lead and that score would hold until Grand Haven's Christina Byrne would score an equalizer at the 16-minute mark of the first half.
One minute later, Grand Haven's Amaya Dewald ripped a shot past the keeper to give the Bucs a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Spring Lake came out motivated in the second half, as Carey, junior Ely McKenzie and Brown would each score goals to help the Lakers jump in front 4-2 and force Grand Haven to call a timeout to regroup.
"We were so pumped up," added Brown of the scoring run. "It was so exciting to see everyone coming together as a team because we've had issues with our play in the second half. Today, we came out fired up in the second half, and we scored three straight goals. That was really exciting, and I think that really helped us stay in front the rest of the game."
The Buccaneers got back in the game quickly, as Page Kramer and Jerica Tallman would net back-to-back goals to force a 4-4 tie with 17 minutes left to play.
The Lakers would fend off a few Grand Haven attempts shortly after that, and a quick counter-attack led to a Katie Vinkemulder goal at the 11:40 mark in the second half to push Spring Lake in front, 5-4.
Both squads would exchange shot attempts, physical collisions and some momentum swings through the next 10 minutes of play as the game clock wound down. With 1:50 left on the clock, Spring Lake junior Elena Antekeier buried a shot attempt to send the Laker bench into a frenzy and give the visitors a 6-4 lead with less than two minutes to go.
Grand Haven would string together a few possessions late, followed by a goal by Katie Webster with 1:26 left to bring the score within one. However, the Spring Lake defense would hold strong after that, deflecting away a final possession and running out the clock to ice the 6-5 win.
"The girls showed a lot of heart today," said Spring Lake head coach Jason Vinkemulder. "We made some fundamental mistakes with groundballs, but they overcame that and really played well during some important stretches of the game.
"This is always an emotional game, and the girls played with intensity. I told them before the game to just play hard and focus on the fundamentals. It's the details that help you win games, and I think everyone executed the components of their jobs tonight."
The sun quickly became a large obstacle to overcome for both squads, with sunlight filtering through the trees and acting as a visual screen during play. Vinkemulder decided to adjust his offense around the problem and the result was five second-half goals.
"The sunlight was giving us some problems, so I basically just took a mirror image of our offense and flipped it so the sun wasn't in our eyes," he said. "That was really the only change to our offensive strategy and that made a big difference.
"Grand Haven's defense really played well. I was impressed with how difficult they made things for us on the attack. It was a battle out there, and we had to earn every shot attempt we got off."
Both Vinkemulder and Brown were happy to get the win on the road, but a May 14 rematch puts a hold on any overzealous celebrations for now.
"It's a great feeling," said Brown of getting the win over Grand Haven. "I've been lucky enough to be on the team all four years and to have four straight wins in this rivalry game is pretty special. We still have to play them again, but to win on the road is really exciting."
"It's important to everybody involved," added Vinkemulder. "These girls and the coaches take it seriously, and everyone wants to have bragging rights after these games. The contests have always been important to us, and we look forward to playing them at our place in a few weeks.
"Mason Carey really impressed me with her poise in this atmosphere. She's only a freshman and she didn't shy away from the moment at all. There was a lot of physical play out there with stick checks and everything, and she handled herself better than I would have thought for that kind of game.
"Between our younger players and our veteran playmakers, everyone made a play out there and helped us get a big win."
GRAND HAVEN GUT CHECK
For Grand Haven head coach Mark Robertson, the rivalry game loss was a good test but could also serve as a fork in the road to the Bucs' season.
"It is a good game, it is always is, but it is always tough, too," he said after the game. "We got a gut check ahead of us now. We always play for the postseason. Conference games are nice and everything, but if you lose in the first round of the playoffs — who cares, see you later.
"We want to play well in the postseason and go further than we ever have before. These games are nice and they are cute and all that, but I want to see the playoffs. I want to see how far we can go. We have to make some adjustments, but this was a good test for us and now we have to respond."
Robertson thought his defense got caught flat-footed early on in the second half, and that made all the difference in a tight game.
"We stopped moving our feet on defense," he said. "You come out after halftime and you are a little cold again and the girls just stopped moving their feet. When we move our feet, our defense is amazing. Then, once we get cold, it gets a little frustrating.
"They started moving their feet again, and we shut them right down. Our defense is quality and our offense is pretty good. We have moments of absolute genius; we just have to come together and be more consistent."
The Lakers (4-2) will host Grandville (5-3) today, while Grand Haven (4-5) will host Lowell (2-3) on Monday.
Drawbridge Classic History
2015: Spring Lake d. Grand Haven (10-9)
2016: Spring Lake d. Grand Haven (11-10 OT)
2017: Spring Lake d. Grand Haven (4-3)
2018: Spring Lake d. Grand Haven (6-5)