By Aaron Poling
CEDAR SPRINGS – As the old cliché goes, it’s not how you start a season, it’s how you end it.
The Lakers started off with three straight ties, which did not bode well for the rest of the season. Since then, however, they have posted an 11-2-1 record, won a district championship, and advanced all the way to the regional finals, which are also the state quarterfinals.
Unfortunately the road ended there for Spring Lake, which lost 2-1 to East Grand Rapids on Thursday night in the Division 2 regional finals at Cedar Springs High School.
Spring Lake wrapped up the campaign with an 11-2-4 record.
“That was a good game, they are a good team, we put in our work and fought with them the whole way,” said Spring Lake coach Jeremy Thelen after the game.
“We’re a pretty young team. I hope we learn from this experience, and I hope we’re ready to come back. We want to be in games like this.”
East Grand Rapids opened the scoring with 17:50 left in the first half when Ben Cannon sent a cross into the box that Nolan Hunter deposited into the left corner of the net.
Benjamin Bush scored the equalizing goal for Spring Lake about 10 minutes into the second half, with an assist from Jonathan Bricker.
Bush received the pass from Bricker, turned and fired the ball past the EGR keeper, making the score 1-1.
But EGR took the lead for good just a few minutes later. A broken play led to the ball ricocheting off a Spring Lake defender and rolling to Paul Gregory, who buried it into the upper left corner of the Spring Lake net.
Spring Lake had several other scoring chances, especially in the second half, but just barely missed the net on four different occasions.
“We had some chances to score,” Thelen said.“ It’s funny, on Tuesday night bounces went our way, but they didn’t necessarily play out that way tonight.”
Spring Lake outshot EGR 7-6. Aidan Parker made four saves in goal for the Lakers.
Coach Thelen went out of his way to credit the Laker seniors who had just played their last game in a Spring Lake soccer uniform.
“The Seniors worked their tails off,” the coach said. “Sheldon Bunnell, Ben DesJardin, Sam Ogden, John Bricker, Alex Benedict and Ben Bush are great guys and gave our program a ton, and I am so proud of them.”