Lordy, lordy, look what’s 40.
Lambert’s No. 1-ranked boys lacrosse team ran its nation-leading winning streak to a 40th consecutive victory Saturday night, defeating St. Pius X 11-2 in the Class AAAA-A state quarterfinals at The Horn. The undefeated Longhorns (20-0) haven’t lost a game since Feb. 25, 2011.
“To do this 40 times in a row with the kind of people we’re playing [against] and the competition we’re playing, it really speaks to the character of the guys we have,” Lambert director of lacrosse Rich Wehman said.
“We’ve got really good players, but we also have great leaders on the team, and I think that’s the difference. It says a lot about the character of the kids we have because I don’t care how good you are, it’s easy, as you see in sports all the time, to slip up and play the kind of game where somebody steps up and beats you.”
St. Pius X (11-8) had reason to believe it could be the team to step up and surprise the defending state champion Longhorns, after holding them to a single goal in the opening period and tying the game 1-1 seven seconds before the first buzzer.
But Lambert dominated the Golden Lions over final three periods, as midfielder Kyle O’Donnell won all 15 faceoffs in the game and teammate Cory Phillips finished with three goals and three assists.
“We expected a good defensive battle,” O’Donnell said. “I have to give a shout out to my wingmen Zack Price and Grant Shuester for helping me out.”
Said Wehman: “We had an idea of some things they might try, and early on in the game we were kind of fighting it a little bit. We weren’t really doing what we had done in practice. When we made a couple of adjustments, we started to break them down defensively.”
Matt Geran (3 goals, 1 assist) scored on an assist from Zack Price (2 goals, 1 assist) just over two minutes into the second period to give the Longhorns a lead they would not relinquish.
Geran scored again a little more than four minutes later. Peyton Smith scooped up a ground ball on the Golden Lions’ side of the field, charged down the left side and whipped a running pass to Geran, who scored from close range on the right side of the goal.
Lambert won the ground ball battle 39-14.
After providing the Longhorns’ first goal of the night with 1:33 left in the first period, Phillips scored the team’s final goal of the first half. Running across the middle 12 yards out, Phillips faked a pass left, ran a few steps right and launched the ball past the goalkeeper to give Lambert a 4-1 lead.
“Our plan was, [Taylor Wharton] comes through and either sets a pick or he clears through, and then if it’s getting doubled ... he’s supposed to call [it],” Phillips said. “Right when he said it, the guy went back. I was already going to throw, but at the last second I just turned my stick and faked it and the guy bit, and I was just able to go.”
Phillips, Geran and Price each added a goal in the third period, increasing the lead to 7-1.
“It definitely started with [O’Donnell],” Phillips said. “We controlled the ball 90 percent of the time, and that’s because of him winning the ball at the faceoff.”
Phillips’ final shot of the third period went out of bounds with 6.8 seconds remaining. That left sophomore Spencer Wilson just enough time to charge in and send a low a low shot into the left side of the net as he was knocked to the ground with less than a second on the clock.
St. Pius X, which had not allowed an opponent to score more than nine goals prior to the game, played very physically, especially in the opening period.
“I think the thing we have to remember, and we did, is this is how it is at playoff time,” Wehman said. “You can’t lose your composure. You’ve just got to keep playing and doing the things that got you here.”
Geran, Ted Ryan and Brady Wilson added the final three goals for the Longhorns.
Lambert travels to Westminster in Atlanta today to face the Wildcats in the state semifinals. Lambert defeated Westminster 7-3 earlier this season.