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Soccer: Brielle LaBerge posts hat trick to lift Bulldogs over Longhorns
Forsyth Central celebrates a goal by Brielle LaBerge (11) in overtime against Lambert Tuesday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

Forsyth Central's Brielle LaBerge banged a long-range effort off the post five minutes into the second half of a Region 6-7A match against Lambert Tuesday at home.

A few inches to the right and the shot likely finds the back of the net to send the Bulldogs to a semi-comfortable victory. Instead, the Longhorns stayed within 1-0 and eventually equalized, sending the game to overtime tied at 1-apiece.

However, No. 4 Forsyth Central started the first 10-minute extra session on the front foot, with LaBerge scoring twice in a five-minute span to complete her hat trick en route to a 3-2 win.

“We missed some really good chances in the first half,” Bulldogs head coach Angela Camp said. “We were able to put it in the back of the net quickly in overtime.

“I’m proud of the girls for their fight and determination.”

LaBerge broke the deadlock with a lofted shot to the back post barely a minute into overtime. Moments later, the Bulldogs scored an important third goal following great work by Avery Berryman — who drove down the right flank before cutting back inside and placing a pass perfectly into LaBerge's path.

“I’m extremely proud of our team and how we worked,” LaBerge said. “Our morning practice (Monday) was a little sloppy, but we came in today with the right momentum and the right head space.”

After several good looks at goal throughout the opening 39 minutes, LaBerge received a layoff from Kieryn Jeter, turned and fired the ball past Lambert goalkeeper Rebecca Bryan for a 1-0 lead with just 49.5 seconds left until halftime.

“It was awesome,” LaBerge said of the goal. “I think that’s what really kept our momentum going. We had that goal up on them. Even though they scored, we knew we just had to get that one more in. Once we got that one in, we knew that it was our game.”

Less than 10 minutes after LaBerge rattled the left post, Lambert finally found a way to finish off one of its several offensive chances. It took a different approach to get the job done, as the Longhorns used a cross from Kasey Sitko and a header by Abbie Vogel to even the score.

Following the reset between the end of regulation and overtime, the Bulldogs (9-1, 3-0) took control of the game, becoming the aggressor again and registering two goals in the ensuing 5 minutes, 34 seconds to show for it.

“That’s our motto, we always want to attack,” Camp said. “We got on our heels a little bit, and they scored on us. I’m glad we were able to get out and pop two in on them really quick.”

Lambert, though, didn't go away.

Sitko scored in the final seconds of the first overtime period, giving the visitors a life line. But the Longhorns (4-5-2, 1-2) couldn't get a good look at a tying goal in the second 10 minutes.

“We just kept preaching what we always do,” Camp said of the second overtime period. “That’s play together, play to each other’s feet and just keep fighting until the last minute.”

While Forsyth Central is certainly in a strong position 60% of the way through the region schedule, the Bulldogs face a couple of tough tests to finish out the slate.

First up, Camp's crew will travel to West Forsyth to face the two-time defending state champions. Forsyth Central will conclude the round-robin format with a home game against seventh-ranked Denmark, which has won both of its region matches by identical 6-0 scorelines.

To be able to compete for the region title, the Bulldogs will need a couple more strong performances from LaBerge. Her coach thinks the junior is up for the challenge.

“She’s a dominant striker,” Camp said. “She just goes out there with everything she’s got at all times. Just proud to have her on my team and coach her. She’s a great kid.”