The Lakers traveled to East Grand Rapids to face off with Grand Rapids Christian in the regional semifinals Wednesday night, improving their standing from the regular season matchup but ultimately falling 16-10.
Spurts of scoring power and flashes of defensive brilliance kept Spring Lake in the game throughout the contest, with an offensive flourish to begin and end the second half giving the Eagles something to sweat.
“It is always hard when your season comes to an end, but I was proud of the way the team played in the second half,” said Spring Lake head coach Jason Vinkemulder. “We bounced back and played to the very last second of the game.”
The contest was decided in the draw circle, where Christian had the upper hand all day. After trailing 9-3 at halftime, the Lakers stole a few draw wins and turned them into quick goals, closing the gap to 10-6 to kick off the second half. The four-goal lead was as close as it got, as the Eagles quickly regained control on the resets to dominate possession time once again and churn out a 5-1 run.
“We struggled with the draw, and getting and retaining possession,” Vinkemulder said. “It was those successive draw victories in the second half that let them pull away. They ran it down and we had some defensive breakdowns, it was that simple.”
The scoring spree put Spring Lake out of the game, but couldn’t quell its effort. A Laker timeout gave the girls a chance to recalibrate, kicking off a furious run to finish off the season.
After netting the lone goal during the Eagles’ game-sealing run, senior Elena Antekeier added another down the stretch, while fellow senior Kate Vinkemulder notched three more to bring the game to a respectable margin.
“They called a timeout and I basically told the girls, ‘You have to choose how you want this to end. How do you want to feel about this? Are you going to go out and play with intensity or fade to the end?’ I challenged them and they rose to the occasion.”
The rally proves the heart of a talented senior class, which made significant contributions all over the field. From starting goalie to defense, middies and forwards, the Class of 2019 was an impactful one.
“It was a great senior class. I really can’t say enough about them,” Vinkemulder said. “Paris Heard was an incredible goalie. She made contributions all four years. Elena Antekeier was a great point scorer for us this year, Kate Vinkemulder definitely brings the grit to the team and the emotional support to get it done, Grace Nass and Lauren Constantine are definitely the backbone of the defense. Their vacated spots will definitely leave a hole. They will all be missed.”
The loss in the regional semifinals marks a tough trend for the Lakers, as they have risen to the top of competition on the Lakeshore, but must find another level in order to break into the next round of the tournament. Three straight seasons have ended at the East Grand Rapids regional, two to the host Pioneers before this year’s Eagle elimination.
“We just want to continue to develop,” Vinkemulder said. “We have the ability to be a top-10 team. That is our first goal. Every year we get a little bit better and tighten up our game. Eventually, we will get there. It starts with top 10 and ends with state champion. The program has the ability, we just have to keep working.”