By Adam Trombley

MUSKEGON TWP. – The Spring Lake girls soccer team was a rude guest on Thursday night.

The Lakers were playing Reeths-Puffer on the Rockets’ home field in the semifinal round of the Division 2 district tournament, and Rocket fans were obviously hoping for a home-field advantage.

Kate Lewkowski controls for Spring Lake. Photo/Pardon Photography

But Spring Lake negated that advantage and continued its successful season with a 4-1 victory to earn a berth in Saturday’s district championship game. The Lakers will play Fruitport for the title at 3 p.m. at Reeths-Puffer High School.

Meah Bajt led the way for the Lakers with two goals. Spring Lake scored three of its goals on penalty kicks.

While the Lakers very much hope to win on Saturday and keep their season alive, Coach Becky May reminds the players that they should be happy just to have a season, after losing their 2020 campaign to COVID.

“I’m very thankful we are on the field,” said May, whose team is now 12-3-2 on the season. “I think as a result of losing last year, every game I emphasize having fun, and whatever happens have fun, because you never know when you’re not going to get to play.

Reeths-Puffer’s No. 6 Alyssa Herbert goes for the ball against Mollie Holmes. Photo/Pardon Photography

“This year every game is fun, every game matters, and every game has meaning, because they know now what it means to not be on the field.”

The Lakers opened the scoring about 10 minutes into the game when Bajt weaved between two defenders to score. Less than four minutes later, Bajt scored again on a penalty kick that found the corner of the net to put the Lakers up 2-0.

Another penalty kick goal, from Eryn Bouwhuis, gave the Lakers a 3-0 lead at halftime.

The Lakers struck again midway through the second half when Clara Saunders scored on yet another penalty kick.

Although it used to be a longshot to have a lot of freshmen play meaningful roles for a varsity team, the Lakers have five ninth-grade starters who have been key to their success this season. One of them is goalie Jessica Stewart, who had eight big saves against R-P.

“Jessica Stewart is phenomenal,” May said. “She makes at least one ridiculous save a game. She gives the coach a lot of comfort and flexibility.”

Reeths-Puffer finished the season with a 9-7-5 record. Coach Dillon McCarthy credited the five seniors on his young team for leading the Rockets to a winning record this season.

“We had 14 underclassmen on the sidelines that they had to lead,” McCarthy said about the seniors. “You can’t coach heart, you can’t coach effort, and they love the game.”