September 14 — PETIT LAC PRINTEMPS. – If there is any material to come at the end of their season, the Spring Lake men’s soccer team will have to thank the ACT tests.
Dreaded by many college students, this may have given the Lakers a winning formula, which they continued with a 3-0 home win on Monday against Hudsonville Unity Christian, the top-ranked team in Division 3.
“On Saturday I had planned to use Porter Saunders in the back, but his tests took a long time,” said coach Jeremy Thelen. “So we put Link [Dephouse] there, and so far, everything is fine. “
Two games and two shutouts is a solid run of results against any team, not to mention breakouts against district rivals Reeths-Puffer and Unity Christian. Before Monday, the Crusaders’ only loss came against Holland Christian.
It wasn’t until the second half, but the additional defensive stability allowed the Lakers’ offense to move freely. Keegan Fritsche, Jonathon Deal and Conrad Bush added the goals for Spring Lake as they try to move back into the OK Blue title image.
“At the start of the season, we put goals first,” said senior goaltender Aidan Parker. “We had all of these guys up there, but now we’re a little more flexible.”
For the first two-thirds of their season, Parker was the only direction shouting from his position in the Laker’s net – instead, with Link Dephouse returning to the defensive line, Parker didn’t have to say the same.
“Him and I are a lot alike,” Parker said. “I know I don’t have to say the same, and I love having him out there.”
Unity Christian tested the Lakers early, a shot from Grant Mulder grazing the crossbar and rebounding, but for the next 70 minutes, Spring Lake had things under control. The first half ended scoreless, but the momentum of pressure from the Lakers led to a goal just after half-time.
Fritsche’s goal came following a Bush pass just outside the Crusaders’ penalty area. Unity’s defense fell a bit behind to block the sight of the elder’s goal, and his right-footed shot found the bottom corner to open the scoring.
“We are starting to believe in each other,” Thelen said. “Now the guys are starting to know their roles and hold each other accountable. The other good thing is we’ve had a number of different goal scorers in the last few games.”
After Isaac Rudd scored a cleverly scored offside goal, Spring Lake’s Jack Mulder was vigilant to prevent a goal, deflecting a Unity pass from an open striker as Parker was blocked by a pass.
The Lakers continued to threaten, but it wasn’t until the last quarter of the game that they got their second. After a goal kick, Fritsche had room to pass and Deal made a long run to retrieve the ball. His one-on-one shot hit the Unity goaltender in the hand, but was hit just hard enough to creep in and double their lead.
“It’s a goal that should go 90% of the time,” Deal said. “That’s how good the pass was. We’re starting to freeze a bit and really work together as a team.”
A second goal made the last few minutes elemental, but there was still time for Bush to score the night’s scoring goal. With seven minutes remaining, he recovered a pass from senior Brayden Dillon before going around a defender. His curling shot flew into the upper right corner of Unity’s net to add some shine to a painstaking victory.
“It’s a really strong team,” Bush said of Unity. “In the second half we just worked a little harder and scored the goals.”
This is a third consecutive victory for the Lakers after losing to Fruitport earlier this month. They still trail the Trojans and Holland Christian by a pair of games, but the momentum will be big as they head into the second half of their conference schedule.
“To start 0-2 and get these wins is huge,” Parker said. “Each of them is just to fight back and give us a chance to win this thing.”
Fruitport will travel to Holland Christian on Wednesday for a meeting of the top two teams in the conference. Spring Lake hosts Coopersville on Wednesday and will be on leave until a trip to West Catholic next Monday.
You can email Kyle at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.