By Steve Gunn

SPRING LAKE – The Spring Lake soccer team didn’t stay down for long.

Spring Lake, a longtime area power, had been going through a rare rough patch, dating back to last fall.

The Lakers were ranked second in the state in 2016, then were upset in the first round of the district tournament. They lost a lot of talent to graduation, and started this season with only one win in their first four games.

But Spring Lake has clearly hit its stride again. The Lakers have won four games in a row, and are 5-0-1 in their last six.

Their latest victory came on Tuesday, when they used a huge second half to down Comstock Park 9-1 in an O-K Black Conference matchup at Spring Lake High School.

Spring Lake’s Evan Ernst (front) and Max White fight for the possession. Photo/Jason Goorman.

Senior Matt Gagnon led the way with a three-goal hat trick while sophomore Malachi Mulder added two.

Spring Lake is now 6-4-1 overall and 5-1 in the O-K Blue. The Lakers are in second place in the league, and will play first-place Grand Rapids Catholic on Thursday.

The Lakers lost their first game with GR Catholic this season, but could pull into a tie for first with a victory.

“We’re a young team that had to put things together,” said Spring Lake Coach Jeremy Thelen. “We had a very tough schedule at the beginning of the season, and it took us some time to get our chemistry together, and figure out who belonged in what spots.

“But as we’ve got into our conference schedule, we’ve been pretty hot lately. Now we’ve got to step up and have a good game on Thursday.”

The Lakers led 3-1 at halftime.

Mulder hit a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes, then Gagnon scored to give the Lakers a 3-0 edge about 12 minutes into the contest.

Lukas Bronold chases down the ball for Spring Lake. Photo/Jason Goorman

Comstock Park’s Drew Hakala found the net with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

Spring Lake displayed its offensive muscle in the second half, getting two more goals from Gagnon, as well as single tallies from Evan Ernst, Thomas Fine, Jacob Hewitt and Nick Krueger.

Krueger’s goal, with 6:37 left, ended the contest by the eight-goal mercy rule.

Ernst had two assists for Spring Lake while Mulder, Fine, Eli Denslow and Charlie Parker had one apiece.

The Lakers kept the ball in the Panthers’ zone for most of the game, and outshot their visitors 16-4.

The rout could have easily been worse if not for the play of Comstock Park’s senior goalkeeper, Cristian Herrera, who made several brilliant saves.