Local Sports Journal
The Spring Lake soccer team made it all the way to the state finals last season, so nobody could call it a bad year.
But the Lakers still had a local score to settle this season.
They lost the Lakes 8 Conference title to Fruitport last fall after winning it the six previous seasons. They wanted the league trophy back in the worst way, and they took a big step toward that goal Thursday night.
Ben Kramer scored on a header with about a minute remaining in the first overtime, giving Spring Lake a thrilling 1-0 victory over Fruitport on its home field in the much anticipated conference showdown.
The Lakers improved to 12-1-3 overall and 8-0 in the conference. They can clinch the Lakes 8 title with a victory over Ludington Tuesday.
Fruitport dropped to 10-5 overall and 7-2 in the league. The Trojans could get the chance to face Spring Lake again in the upcoming district tournament.
“Losing the conference last year was a big deal to us, and this was Homecoming week at our school,” said Spring Lake Coach Jeremy Thelen. “It was kind of like our soccer Homecoming. We had a big crowd and the guys really wanted to win in front of our fans.
“Fruitport really played with their hearts. They made us work for this one.”
The teams battled to a scoreless deadlock for 80 minutes, forcing the two 10 minute overtime periods. Spring Lake outshot Fruitport 11-5, but Trojan goalie Conner Deneen kept the game close with nine big saves.
The winning goal came in the first overtime, after Spring Lake’s Ryan Zietlow drove into the corner of the Fruitport zone with the ball and was knocked down, resulting in a penalty kick.
Kyle Zietlow took the kick and drove the ball it into the box, then Kramer deflected it off his head and got it past Deneen.
“It was a real nice header – not so much for power but for direction,” Thelen said.
Fruitport Coach Greg Kobylak said players from both teams fought hard for victory, and gave it their all until it hurt.
“It was a great game where players pushed their bodies to the limit,” Kobylak said. “Many players were cramping up and will take days to recover.”
Kobylak credited six of his players for outstanding defensive play – Nathan Sturtevant, Alec Parker, Lucas Leslie, J.D. Lory, Chase McIntire and Kyle Winger.
“They defended as a cohesive unit and it was pretty to watch,” Kobylak said. “Both teams played with great defensive tactics. It was probably the best defense I’ve seen by both teams in a single match in the rivalry.”