By Adam Knorr
GRAND RAPIDS – The tough part for the Spring Lake girls soccer team will be finding a silver lining to a heartbreaking loss.
The Lakers played DeWitt to a 0-0 tie after two overtimes Friday in the Division 2 regional finals at Forest Hills Northern High School.
The issue was decided in a shootout, with five shooters from each team going one-on-one with the opposing goalie. DeWitt outscored the Lakers 5-3 in that round tosteal a 1-0 victory and a berth in the state semfinals.
Spring Lake finished the season with an outstanding 18-2-2 record.
It was a tough way to end an outstanding season, but Laker Coach Jeremy Thelen was able to see a positive in the end.
“We have eight seniors on our team – they’re really important to us,” Thelen said. “These girls have given a lot to the program. They taught us how to kind of fight. We have 11 underclassmen on the team that will return next year.
“We have a starting lineup that will come from this game that was on our roster all season, so hopefully they learned what it takes to fight those tight games and we’ll get it next time.”
DeWitt Coach Jamal Mubarakeh was thrilled and relieved to escape with a victory.
“Those kids have been working so hard all season long,” Mubarakeh said. “We tried to create chances in the first half and second half but they were marking our main player very tight.
“eally I am proud of my kids, they fought all game. We moved the ball the way we were supposed to but Spring Lake didn’t give us a lot of space.”
The teams traded successful shootout kicks until Spring Lake’s Alex Prout rang her try off the crossbar in the third found.
Spring Lake’s Nora Adkins was nearly the star of the two overtime periods, putting a header shot on net and then having a breakaway opportunity, but those shots and another were turned aside by DeWitt goalkeeper Brooklyn Holley.
Scoring chances came sparingly throughout the regulation and overtime periods.
Spring Lake’s midfielders sent through balls time and time again, but the Lakers were unable to find a hole in DeWitt’s strong back four.
With just under 24 minutes remaining in the first half, DeWitt’s Erika Curley nearly broke through. Curley found herself alone in the box, but her chip shot knocked off the crossbar and the game remained knotted at 0-0.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Panthers nearly struck again. A corner kick led to a pinball effect in the box, but Laker goalie Emma Gordon stood tall and repelled a flurry of shots.
As the first half wound down, Adkins ripped a shot from the left side of the box, but it sailed wide and the two teams went scoreless into halftime.
“At the beginning of the game they definitely outplayed us,” said Spring Lake’s Saebryn Peel. “Once we got into the game we started coming back and working hard and it was totally back and forth. We couldn’t get one in there, couldn’t finish. Props to their goalie, she had some really good saves. It’s a tough loss.”
Neither team could manage a clean central look in the second half, either.
DeWitt sought to involve freshman standout Taylor Bishop, but Spring Lake’s defense held the striker to nothing more than a few outside looks.
The Lakers offense ran through Adkins, but the junior was held in check by a strict DeWitt defense.
With 1:40 remaining in regulation, Peel freed herself up at the top of the box, but her shot sailed high of the mark.
DeWitt advances to play Gull Lake in the semifinals on June 9 at 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids Christian.