Spring Lake’s girls soccer program ran into a Forest Hills Northern roadblock in three-straight trips to the Division 2 regional finals 2017-19.

The Lakers encountered a different kind of travel issue en route to Thursday’s regional final at Cedar Springs. Their bus broke down on country roads and they were stranded in a field about an hour in sweltering heat.

After a while, parents showed up and transported the team in SUVs. The start of the match was delayed 15 minutes and it was a tough one, but Spring Lake got past gritty Cadillac, 1-0 in overtime, on senior Zoe Komar’s goal with 2:53 left in the first of two 10-minute extra periods.

Spring Lake (15-3-2) seized its first regional title since 2013 on a day the Lakers will not soon forget. They advance to Tuesday’s state semifinal at Holland High School to face the winner of Friday’s regional final between Byron Center and Marshall. Cadillac finishes its breakthrough season with a 15-5-5 record.

“It was sobering. They blew the whistle, the game was over, we won and I almost was like, ‘Did we really?’ I had to sit down for a second and I was like, ‘Oh, man, we did.’ I opened up my eyes after I was sitting on the bench and looked up and the girls, I could just see they were all screaming. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I guess we did it,’” Spring Lake coach Becky May said in a phone interview with MLive, reflecting a sense of both relief and accomplishment.

Spring Lake girls soccer vs. East Grand Rapids in regional

In this file photo, Spring Lake girls soccer coach Becky May talks to her players during a break in the action in a Division 2 regional semifinal against East Grand Rapids Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at Red Hawk Stadium in Cedar Springs, Mich. Spring Lake defeated East Grand Rapids, 4-1. (Scott DeCamp | MLive.com)(Scott DeCamp | MLive.com)

The Lakers lost one-goal games to Forest Hills Northern in the previous three regional finals appearances as well as a one-goal decision to Grand Rapids Christian in the 2016 regional semifinals. In 2015, they fell to DeWitt by one goal in the regional finals.

“It was a pretty sweet moment finally breaking through and getting the regional championship,” May said.

Cadillac, which was making its first regional finals appearance, played a possession game as a strong team unit. May knew it was going to be a battle, given the fact that the Vikings had four players across the back and were intent on collapsing on dynamic goal scorer Meah Bajt (34 goals this season) every time she touched the ball.

May said that Bajt, Komar and Ella Andree each got past defenders and had one-on-one opportunities with the goalkeeper, but they all missed. Cadillac senior Molly Anderson played exceptionally well in goal, stopping three or four point-blank shots and keeping the high-scoring Lakers scoreless for the first 87 minutes.

Finally, in the first OT period, Bajt got the ball on the attack and instead of shooting, she dumped it off to Komar, who fired in a shot from about 15 yards near-post.

“It was a typical Zoe shot – close to the goal and a ton of power,” May said.

“For me, it was nice to see her get that goal in a game where everything came down to that goal.”

Cadillac controlled possession in the first half before Spring Lake flipped the script in the second half.

The Vikings were able to put eight shots on goal, but Lakers freshman keeper Jessica Stewart was up to the challenge.

“They possess the ball very well. They’re a very good team unit. They played extremely well together, so that worried me a bit, but I didn’t see anybody that was just really dynamic, super scary like the way Meah (Bajt) scares people,” May said. “Yeah, actually I anticipated it was going to be a full-game battle.”

As it turned out, the Lakers had trouble even getting to the game.

Riding on a school bus about halfway to Cedar Springs, May and the Lakers heard a loud pop. The coach asked the driver if a tire had blown. He got out and checked, and the tires were fine. But when he tried to restart the engine, it wouldn’t ignite. It appeared the exhaust had dislocated.

The Lakers were stranded in mid- to high-80-degree temperatures.

“We ended up in a field by an old, abandoned barn for an hour, waiting. It was awful. We tried to stay hydrated and I kept trying to get them to stay in the shade, but we were standing out in that field. We couldn’t stay on the bus, we were just baking,” May said.

“We got out and went next to some abandoned barn where we could get a little bit of shade. The kids had to go to the bathroom out in the field behind the barn. An hour later, we finally had enough parents that arrived and I think we had about eight SUVs and we all piled us in and they got us there.”

During their idle time in the field, the Lakers saw an old manure spreader, so they climbed on it and took a team photo.

The match had been scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but the start time was pushed to 6:15. May said that Spring Lake had enough time for a brief warmup and then it was game time. They had already sweat through their uniforms before even setting foot on the field.

“It’s going to be a day none of the kids ever forget and that just makes it even more unforgettable,” May said.

“Spring Lake does have a couple of new buses. I think they’ll actually give us those for that (semifinals) trip,” she said with a chuckle.


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