BY DENNIS CHASE
ELK RAPIDS — Elk Rapids soccer coach Nate Plum saw room for improvement Tuesday after the Elks posted a comfortable 8-2 win over Comstock Park in a Division 3 regional soccer opener here.
The Elks scored four goals in an 18-minute span in the first half to seize control.
"I told the boys at half it was probably one of our sloppiest 4-0 games I've ever seen," Plum said. "I told them we need to go out there with a goal of simply improving, improving, improving. We need to make ourselves better. It just wasn't our best half. One of those goals they put in on themselves. We had a couple nice finishes for goals, but overall our movement wasn't what it needs to be, especially when we're going to go up against tougher teams."
Like Whitehall. The Vikings beat Tawas 1-0 in the nightcap to set up Friday's final. Whitehall is ranked No. 3 in Division 3, Elk Rapids (19-5) No. 7.
"That's going to be a big game against a good team," Elks senior Spencer LaPointe said.
LaPointe and Alec Altonen scored two goals apiece to lead the Elks past Comstock Park.
Andy Atkinson put the Elks on the board with 22:44 left in the first half when, after skillfully controlling the ball, he arched a shot over Panthers goalie Miguel Nava.
Nearly three minutes later, LaPointe took a perfect overhead feed from Austin McMullen and converted to make it 2-0.
Jake Klein registered the third goal when he put a shot on goal from the corner that it was inadvertently knocked in by a Panthers defender.
LaPointe rounded out the first-half flurry with his second marker at the 4:29 mark.
"It's hard to come back from a 4-0 deficit," Comstock Park coach Javier Nava said. "We have two kids hurt, two of our key players, but I'm really proud of the way they played even though we were down in numbers and talent.
"I tip my hat to these guys (Elks) because they played a really good game."
A good game, but maybe not really good, according to Plum. Not totally pleased with the first-half, Plum said the Elks were guilty of a 15-minute lapse in the second half when Jimmy Whalen netted the two Comstock Park goals.
"They're (Panthers) here for a reason," he said. "But we took our foot off the gas for 15 minutes and they put their highest player up and they took advantage of some miscues in the back that normally don't happen. They made us pay for it.
"It's disappointing to get scored on when we dominated the game, but that's something we'll have to live with, learn from and improve upon.
"We're here again (in regional final). That's the nice thing, but we've got to get better."
Altonen netted his first goal seven minutes into the second half when he curled in a shot.
"I put some spin on that," he said. "I came in pretty slow on the dribble. Coach was yelling at me to run faster and take the ball a few more dribbles. But I saw the goal so I just kicked it and got a nice bend."
His second tally came 10 minutes later. LaPointe assisted.
"I told Spencer to pass me the ball because I had a pretty open side on the 18," he said. "I dribbled it and got it (shot) far side again."
Whalen then popped in two goals in just over two minutes to put Comstock Park on the board.
Talon Felker and Noah Dietrich closed out the scoring for the Elks.