By Andrew Johnson
HOLLAND – The Spring Lake girls soccer team – particularly senior Zoe Komar – certainly has a flair for the dramatic.
Last Thursday, Komar scored in overtime to give the Lakers a 1-0 regional championship game victory over Cadillac. On Tuesday, Komar saved the day again, scoring the game-winning goal with 1:33 left in regulation to give the Lakers a stunning 2-1 win over Byron Center in the Division 2 state semifinals at Holland High School.
She took possession of the ball and broke loose up the field before ripping a shot that found the right side of the net.
The heart-stopping victory gave the Laker girls their first berth in the state soccer finals in school history. They will play Bloomfield Hills Marian for all the marbles on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Michigan State University.
“I was like ‘Don’t screw up,’” Komar said. “You never know, it could be our last opportunity. We didn’t have many. But we really capitalized and I’m still shocked. I just can’t process it. I think it was just all adrenaline.”
“I feel numb,” said Spring Lake Coach Becky May, whose team is now 15-3-2. “But it feels good and I’m so proud of all these girls.”
Just six minutes into the game, Meah Bajt netted the opening goal for Spring Lake when she ripped a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that found the right corner of the net.
“You can’t go wrong with Meah,” said May about her leading scorer’s ability to pile up points. “She gets us going. Her and Zoe both do, and Zoe didn’t want this to be her last game.”
That 1-0 lead held through halftime and deep into the second half.
With just 18:44 remaining in the game, Byron Center’s Payton McKellar faked left before turning right and drilling a long distance shot that tied the game at 1-1. That score held up until Komar’s goal with time running out settled the issue.
Spring Lake finished with just two shots on goal. Byron Center totaled eight shots, but Laker freshman goalkeeper Jessica Stewart made seven crucial saves.
“Jessica was incredible,” Coach May said. “But she always is.”
Helping Stewart in the defensive effort was junior center defensive back Eryn Bouwhuis, who was tested frequently by Byron Center.
“She runs the show,” said May about Bouwhuis. “When we had our meeting in the beginning, I said Eryn will be loud and you’re all going to be okay with it. She’s going to make the decisions and you’ll be okay with it, and she did an incredible job of helping sort out the marks.
“I mean look at her, she’s tiny and it’s all a mental game for her, and she won that today. They’re faster and stronger than her, but she proved today what she’s capable of.”
While some players may fear a challenge, Bouwhuis said she likes to be pushed and have her skills tested by other teams.
“It feels really good because it was a hard-fought, tough game,” she said. “We played through everything, and they had a lot of possession around us, but I felt like we wanted it more in the end.”
“It’s just so surreal,” Bouwhuis added about the chance to play for the state title. “It’s crazy right now. I can’t even put my mind to it.”