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Girls soccer: Freshmen lead Lambert past Norcross in first round of state playoffs
L SHennessey 1 web

Lambert girls soccer head coach Scott Luthart saw a diverse, dominant performance from the Longhorns on Tuesday night in their 4-0 win over Norcross in the first round of the state playoffs. The Longhorns played fast and creatively on offense, adeptly creating chances in the opposing half and mounting quick counterattacks, and they smothered most of the Blue Devils’ attempted moves up the field.

What Luthart didn’t see, however, could be the best sign of all for this young Lambert squad’s state title hopes.

“I don’t think this team gets nervous,” Luthart said.

He didn’t see it before the game, in the locker room or during warmups, and there were scant signs of it once the whistle blew. The Longhorns (16-3-0) scored just under two-and-a-half minutes in, when Katelyn Castelli swung a cross to the back post and Madison Haugen headed it in.

With 16 minutes 40 seconds left in the first half, Haugen scored again, catching Norcross’ keeper out of position and sending a strike in. Roughly two minutes after that, Sydney Hennessey gathered a through ball from Anna Sullivan and sent a hard strike into the right side of the net.

Both of those goal-scorers are freshmen, and their memories of Lambert soccer have been overwhelmingly positive: Just three losses, with the last coming back on March 14, and a 40-3 margin in goals since then.

“Sometimes, when you’re that young, maybe you don’t know to be nervous,” Luthart said. “You don’t have a frame of reference where you got knocked out in the first round by a lower seed or something like that.”

Haugen herself admitted to feeling some butterflies, as is expected with state playoff games, but the team’s early tallies helped relax them.

“We always like getting the goal early so we don’t have to feel pressured at the very end of the game to get one in,” Haugen said.

Flaws in Lambert’s performance on Thursday were scarce: sporadic issues with communication, occasional defensive leakage and a second half with just one goal, from Maddie Eddleman. (Although the Longhorns did hit the post three times within 30 seconds at one point.)

The nerves could come later on in the playoffs, Luthart said, when the matchups are tighter and the games have higher stakes and bigger crowds. But on Thursday, he just saw a smattering of anxiety, and not of the worst type, either.

“I think (we were) maybe more anxious than nervous,” Luthart said. “Anxious to get on the field and get the game going.”

Lambert is set to face Kennesaw Mountain, the No. 2 seed out of Region 3, at home on Tuesday.