By Mitchell Boatman

HOLLAND – Entering Tuesday’s regional semifinal game against Byron Center, the Spring Lake soccer team was hurting, physical and emotionally.

The Lakers had several players dealing with injuries they suffered in districts. And the girls were also coping with the loss of center midfielder Kate Gilchrist’s grandfather, who was the team’s announcer and passed away Monday.

The Lakers could have easily let their pain and grief hurt their performance. Instead they dominated the second half and defeated Byron Center 3-0 at Holland Christian High School to keep their season alive.

The win sends Spring Lake to Friday’s Division 2 regional final against Forest Hills Northern at 6 p.m. at Holland Christian. The game will be an opportunity for redemption, because the Lakers fell to FHN 1-0 in last year’s regional title match.

Spring Lake’s No. 5 Laney Peasley moves the ball along the sideline. Photo/Grand Haven Tribune

“We hurt. Everybody hurts,” said Lakers coach Becky May, whose team improved to 19-2 on the season. “We were heartbroken, all of us. Every halftime our cheer is ‘family.’

“(Kate) didn’t talk through the whole practice yesterday. She couldn’t talk, but she came. That’s one thing that’s so great about sports. When everything falls apart, for two hours you can set it down, it gives you a break from crying all day.”

While the Spring Lake squad managed to come together and overcome emotional pain, it still had several players ailing physically. Emily Batts and Phoebe Saunders both played despite being hurt – and both scored in Tuesday’s win.

“It’s going to be game-to-game (for them) from here on out,” May said. “They probably won’t practice the rest of the year. One of the things they’re learning is the difference between injury and pain. Injury you can’t play over, pain we can.”

The Bulldogs and Lakers played to a scoreless tie at halftime. That’s when Spring Lake JV coach Thomas Kitchen addressed the girls and laid down some demands.

“My JV coach literally said, ‘I want three goals this half and I want one in the first five minutes,’” May said.

The Lakers listened. Saunders found the back of the net just 54 seconds into the second half. Taylor Colquitt padded the lead to 2-0 11 minutes later. Batts added the final tally with 18:53 to play.

“If it was that easy, I’ll let him give the speech every halftime,” May said about Kitchen. “I told them at halftime to just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re knocking at the door, one’s going to go.”

May said Friday’s rematch with Forest Hills Northern should be a great battle.

“That’ll be a crazy game,” the coach said. “They’re a winning team that is used to winning. My girls are nervous because everyone remembers last year. But they want to keep playing soccer. We want another game. We’ll be tough to beat.”