By Jason Goorman
Spring Lake’s girls soccer season came to an end on Thursday with a 3-0 shutout loss to a strong Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central squad in the Division 2 regional final at Cedar Springs High School.
The departing seniors couldn’t help but feel the loss of breath that last season gave in their 2021 state runner-up finish.
“It was amazing and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” said Spring Lake senior Reese Shelton. “I was really proud of every single one of us in this year and last year, it’s just so tough.”
The senior’s hopes of reaching the pinnacle game for one more shot at a state title were whisked away as the last second clicked off the clock.
“We never once stepped away and just played for ourselves,” said an emotional Shelton about her fellow seniors and teammates. “To be able to play on a team with this kind of chemistry means so so much.”
The Lakers struggled against Central, despite having offensive power Meah Bajt. The senior entered the game with 13 goals in her last two contests.
Bajt could hardly find her rhythm against the Ranger’s suffocating defense.
Spring Lake’s defense did all it could to hold back Central, eventually succumbing to the game’s first goal with three minutes left in the first half.
Frankie Sutton gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead over Spring Lake after taking a well-placed pass that found Sutton alone in front of Laker goalkeeper Caroline Henry.
The Rangers built on their 1-0 halftime lead less than three minutes into the second half when Dailey Tucker put the Rangers up 2-0.
Haley Ward topped off the Rangers’ scoring with four minutes left in the contest.
“I told them (seniors) thank you,” said Spring Lake Coach Becky May who took over the program in 2017. “The seniors set the bar really high and were amazing to the underclassmen.”
The Lakers had five seniors on the team with Emily Anderson, Bajt, Shelton, Ryann Gilchrist and Eryn Bouwhuis.
With just five seniors, that meant the Lakers had a huge underclass of players. Seven juniors, 11 sophomores, and two freshman supported the returning state runner-up senior class.
“There’s no replacing a group like that, except figuring out how to move on without them,” said May whose team finished the season with a 17-3-1 record and an O-K Blue runner-up finish. “This was just an amazing senior class and team who was good to each other in every single game and represented the Lakers really well.”