The girls’ lacrosse iteration of the storied rivalry is no exception. The Lakers improved to 5-0 all-time against the Bucs on Tuesday night with a thrilling 10-8 victory at home as they celebrated senior night.
It was the first time the game had been decided by more than one goal.
“It was certainly more exciting than we would have liked,” said Spring Lake head coach Jason Vinkemulder. “To get the win by more than one goal for the first time in history feels good. ‘Baby steps,’ I told the girls.
“Our defense really stepped up today. We were able to watch film from last game and see what they did to us and made adjustments on defense to shut them down. It worked really great in the first half, and not so well in the second half.”
A furious second-half rally erased the Lakers’ 7-1 halftime lead as Grand Haven netted four unanswered goals to start the second half and cut the score to 7-5.
With two minutes remaining, the Bucs had managed to hold onto their two-goal deficit with timely scoring and tremendous crunch-time play in net by Taylor Hylok. But, the Lakers’ vice grip on time of possession continued, allowing them to run out the remaining clock and secure the victory.
“My girls never give up,” said Grand Haven head coach Mark Roberson. “There is something in them that just won’t allow it. We had moments of genius and moments of complete inadequacy, but they never gave up.”
Kate Vinkemulder netted a game-high five goals to lead the Lakers, ahead of Josie Brown’s four and Elena Antekeier’s one.
The Bucs were led by Christina Byrne with four goals, while Jerica Tallman scored two and Chelsea Sportell and Elise Betten each scored one.
Spring Lake kicked things off with a run, netting three goals in the opening eight minutes of play as Brown scored two and Vinkemulder one.
With 14 minutes left in the first half, the onslaught continued as Vinkemulder found the net via free shot. Three minutes later, Vinkemulder assisted Brown to push the Laker lead to 5-0.
From there, Grand Haven locked in on defense and was able to wrestle away some time of possession. After a failed offensive trip for the Bucs, Spring Lake scooped the ball and burst out in transition, committing a foul in the process.
The push gave the Bucs the ball with just over 1:30 left in the half and Sportell took advantage, receiving a pass on the crease and lighting the away scoreboard with a dunk.
The Lakers would net a final goal with 59 seconds left to play in the half on a well-executed C-cut from goal line extended by Antekeier, to bring on their 7-1 halftime lead.
Grand Haven came out on fire for the second half, winning seven straight draws, picking up four unanswered goals in the opening five minutes as a result. Byrne and Tallman split the spoils, two each.
“We just started catching the ball, crazy how well that works,” said Roberson of the run. “We had an idea of how to get by a few things and find some openings. We tried it in the first half and just dropped the ball. Finally, something just clicked.”
With 19:56 left to play, Spring Lake called a timeout to regroup. The break worked wonders, as they answered with two goals by Brown and Vinkemulder to push their lead back to 10-5 with 12:16 to play.
“I told them to just get back to playing Spring Lake lacrosse,” coach Vinkemulder said. “Focus on the details, and don’t get emotional. Do your job, focus on the details and the score will take care of itself.”
Byrne and the Bucs would not quit, however, as the senior midfielder picked up two quick goals at the 8:04 and 7:36 marks to close the gap back to three.
With 2:48 left to play, Grand Haven cut it to two as Betten converted a free shot. In a game-defining play, the Lakers took the ensuing draw, setting up their hold to the buzzer.
The win was especially sweet for the Lakers as they celebrated Senior Night, sending off Brown, Katlyn Kaffenberger, Emily Sievertsen and Lauren Galloway with a rivalry win.
“This group is special because they have been with me since they were in middle school,” coach Vinkemulder said. “Six years ago, I was the middle school coach and they were my players and we have moved up together.
“Brown had a great game. Being Senior Night, I think she came with a bit of extra energy in her last chance to play our rivals from across the bridge. Her and the rest of the seniors rose to the occasion.”
With another epic chapter of the Classic in the books, both teams can turn their attention to the postseason. The Lakers kick off their journey against Northview at home on Friday at 5 p.m. A win there would set up a rematch with East Grand Rapids at East Grand Rapids, mirroring their second-round draw from last season.
The Bucs will face Zeeland East in the opening round on May 23 at Rockford and with a victory will take on the winner of Grandville vs. the winner of Kalamazoo Central and Portage Northern.