By Aaron Poling

SPRING LAKE – The Spring Lake Lakers might be the most unusual undefeated soccer team in the state.

The Lakers opened their 2020 season with three straight ties, before heating up lately and posting a 6-0-1 record in their last seven games, including four wins in a row.

The latest victory came on Monday when the Lakers blasted Allendale 8-1 in the opening round of the O-K Blue conference tournament on their home field.

Jonathan Bricker heads the ball for Spring Lake. Photo/Kelly Gates

Ben Bush led the attack with three goals and an assist. Porter Saunders added two goals and two assists.

Spring Lake, now 6-0-4, will play Hudsonville Unity Christian in the semifinal round of the tournament on Wednesday.

With so much obvious talent on the team, it’s hard to imagine how the Lakers could have been stuck with four ties in 10 games this season.

That can be explained by the lack of opportunities to play. Club soccer teams missed their spring season due to COVID-19, keeping the players from staying in shape and working themselves into form during the offseason.

Then the regular season was delayed by several weeks, until the state allowed high school soccer to be played in the southern Lower Peninsula.

All of that resulted in a little bit of rust, which manifested itself in the form of some frustrating ties.

“It’s hard at the beginning of the season, especially since these guys hadn’t played a soccer game since last October,” said Spring Lake Coach Jeremy Thelen. “We started the season kind of slow, but we’ve been starting to put things together lately,”

Those sentiments were echoed by Monday’s two big scoring stars.

Sheldon Bunnell moves the ball upfield for Spring Lake. Photo/Kelly Gates

“We didn’t start the way we wanted to start,” Saunders said after the game. “We needed to get our chemistry right. The first couple of games we started slow, but we understood we could get better by working together.”

“I would say that we have become used to each other,” Bush added. “There are a lot more variables than in years past, with the pandemic.”

The game was scoreless for the first 19 minutes of the opening half, before the Lakers started pouring on the goals.

Saunders opened up the scoring with a goal about midway through the half. Keegan Fritsche made it 2-0 about 12 minutes later, then Saunders and Bush found the net before halftime.

Bush scored twice more in within the first 10 minutes of the second half, then Kole Patlyn and Conrad Bush wrapped up the scoring chart for Spring Lake.

Terry Meyer scored the lone Allendale goal midway through the second half.

Jacob Barnes, Sheldon Bunnell and Jonathon Bricker each had single assists for the Lakers, who had a huge advantage in shots on goal. Goalkeeper Aidan Parker got the victory.

“If we play our game and keep doing what we have been doing, when we work together we can win a lot of games,” Coach Thelen said.