Photos by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
MUSKEGON — Fruitport’s boys soccer team had to cool down a hot Whitehall squad if it wanted to advance to Thursday’s Division 2 district final and earn a rematch with rival Spring Lake.
The seventh-ranked Trojans did just that Tuesday night at Reeths-Puffer’s Eric Marcil Field, thanks in large part to the performance of Sean Gieske. The junior forward netted a hat trick for Fruitport in a 5-0 victory over Whitehall, which snapped the Vikings’ six-game winning streak and ended their season.
Fruitport (13-2-3) will face Spring Lake (14-2-3) at 6 p.m. Thursday in a battle of top-10 teams in the district final. The ninth-ranked Lakers defeated host Reeths-Puffer, 3-1, in the first semifinal Tuesday. Spring Lake handed Fruitport its first loss of the season, 3-1, on Oct. 6.
Whitehall closes with an 8-9-1 record.
“To see (Spring Lake) again after the year we’ve had, we are ready,” Fruitport coach Dan Hazekamp said. “These games are wars, and you know it’s going to be a battle.”
Despite not playing a full game in the last two weeks, Fruitport came out on fire against Whitehall.
The Trojans scored in the first four minutes when Ryan Laus found Bode Anspach on the back post, where Anspach headed the ball in.
“We preached energy and moving the ball,” Hazekamp said. “We came out fast, and getting that first goal put some wind in our sails.”
Fruitport jumped out to a 4-0 first-half lead. Laus followed his assist with a goal of his own, then Gieske tallied twice in the final 20 minutes of the half. Jackson Rebone assisted on all three of those goals.
The jumpstart gave the Trojans all the momentum they needed, and they closed it out in the second half to secure a rematch with the Lakers with a district title on the line. Gieske’s third goal came in the second half to put on the finishing touches.
Gieske has always been a “speed merchant,” according to Hazekamp, and he uses that ability to track down the ball in the open field. The coach said Gieske has worked hard to fine-tune other parts of his game, which has made Fruitport better as a whole.
“I’m extremely proud of Sean and he just continues to develop as a player,” Hazekamp said. “He earned (the hat trick), and I’m glad he’s reaping the benefits of that tonight.”
Gieske feels as though he’s in a good mental position moving forward to Thursday. He continues to push for his teammates’ success ahead of his own.
At the same time, the hat trick gave him even more conviction entering the district finals.
“I feel like I have a better mindset (this season),” he said. “I always try to help my teammates, and I always want them to shine, too.”
Of course, you can’t overlook Fruitport’s defense.
The Trojans checked all the boxes in that area against Whitehall, too.
“The backline did a great job of staying organized and connected,” Hazekamp said. “Overall, it was a solid performance against a good Whitehall team.”
After battling back from a slow start this fall, Whitehall finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak and the Vikings continued that last week in their 1-0 first-round district victory against Fremont.
The turnaround is a reflection of growth through their time together, according to coach Bryan Mahan.
“To do what we’ve done after the way we stated the season, is a testament to the seniors and the team,” he said. “If you have a team that does this, it doesn’t matter how you end.
“We didn’t play a great first half (against Fruitport), but we stopped having nerves and played some ball in the second half.”
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