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Madison Haugen's return to Lambert from the Development Academy helped the Longhorns get back to the state title game, as she totaled 33 goals and 15 assists. - photo by Ian Frazer

The 2019 season wasn’t the one where Madison Haugen burst onto the Forsyth County girls high school soccer scene, exactly: She was, after all, the leading scorer on the 2017 Lambert team that won the state title and a first team All-County selection that year as well.

But like many players, particularly on Lambert, Haugen was absent in 2018, solely playing on her travel team in the Development Academy system.

And her return to high school play in 2019 was a revelation in multiple ways. The Georgia commit emerged as a newly dominant figure in the sport, with 33 goals, 15 assists and a mind-boggling six hat tricks, even while often being man-marked and leaving matches early in blowouts, and Haugen’s return helped catapult the Longhorns back to statewide prominence, helping them to one of the most best-ever seasons by any county team in any sport.

It was clear that Haugen’s year off from the Longhorns wasn’t exactly that: The entire purpose of the Development Academy is to increase the rigor of training and competition for participants. So when Haugen reemerged, she was bigger, stronger, faster and more clinical.

“I was a freshman, so I was a little more timid,” Haugen said of her first season. “But being a junior definitely gave me more confidence to just take on defenders (and) finish in front of goal.”

With one season left in her high school career, Haugen hopes the Longhorns' crushing championship loss to North Gwinnett can help motivate them to another run. - photo by Ian Frazer
Haugen wasn’t the Longhorns’ sole source of offense in 2019: Lambert’s full backs, wingers and midfielders did their share of work as well pushing the ball forward. When the time came to put the ball in the net, though, Haugen was typically the one doing it. The notoriety Haugen gained from that caused teams to try unusual tactics to slow her down and drew plenty of aggressive challenges from defenders.

But her method to counteract those tactics couldn’t be much simpler: Run faster than your defender, and see the opportunity before they do.

“Honestly, you just keep moving,” Haugen said. “… And then once I get the ball, I try to turn on them and go from there.”

Haugen certainly recognized the individual and team success that she experienced in 2019. But when reflecting on the year, she quickly brought up the memory that, at least in the immediate aftermath, seemed to outweigh all of them: The Longhorns’ loss in penalty kicks to North Gwinnett in the state title game.

Haugen was an active threat in that game, creating multiple chances on long balls forward and swinging in the cross that Faith Ferrer put in for the game’s opening goal, but she also feels some of the responsibility for the defeat: Maybe she could have done better in finishing opportunities or served up better through balls.

The end effect of that loss, though, will likely end up being a positive. Haugen has one more year of high school soccer left, as does the vast majority of Lambert’s 2019 team. In 2020, she’ll have her sights on ending her high school career the way she started it.

“It’s definitely still sticking to me,” Haugen said of the title game loss in the week following. “It’s just hard because I felt like we were so close to such a perfect season. To come up short really stinks, and I definitely haven’t gotten over it yet.”

“But it definitely is still motivating me to want to work harder and be a better player next year.”