When Lambert’s Gabby DiVirgilio stared down against South Forsyth goalie Kayla Casey on Friday night, she knew exactly what she was going up against.
The two know each other well and are set to become teammates at Mercer University in a couple of years, but for right now, DiVirgilio wanted to use her in-depth knowledge of Casey’s abilities and tendencies to her advantage.
In the second half of Friday night’s matchup, her foresight paid off, with DiVirgilio scoring six goals against her future teammate. She connected on her last goal after evading a defender with a well-placed spin move, and she couldn’t help but walk away with a strut in her step as her teammates surrounded her in celebration.
“I didn't know it was going to be that good of a dodge,” DiVirgilio said. “When I (sold) it and had that amazing shot, I was like, ‘Alright, that was pretty hype.’”
DiVirgilio finished her night with eight scores, which was enough to catapult the Longhorns to a 15-5 win over the War Eagles after a slow start for the Lambert offense. With the win, Lambert evened its area record to 2-2, and are now knotted up with South (2-2) in the Class 6-7A Area 6 standings.
“I'm a little biased, but I don't think there's a better player in the county,” Lambert coach Travis Church said. “Kayla Casey had her number in the first half, that's for darn sure. You could tell (DiVirgilio) was getting frustrated. When we need her to, she can put the team on her back and take over a game. We needed her tonight.”
South did what they could to slow the game down early, to some success. Lambert goalie Leah Shafer made some nice saves early, but eventually, the War Eagles broke through with Ruth Ann George connecting on the game’s first score with 16:54 left in the first half. The ensuing 1-0 score ended up being South’s only lead, with goals from DiVirgilio and Avery Lawler helping the Longhorns to a 7-4 halftime edge.
“In the first half, we just didn't click as a team, I feel like,” DiVirgilio said. “We wanted to rush so much because we were spending so much time on defense. That's definitely not what we needed to do. We needed to slow it down.”
And when Lambert did that, they were nearly unstoppable. After another defensive start to a half, DiVirgilio connected on a one-on-one chance with 11:28 to play to make it 8-4, and after a goal from South’s Maddie Ford, DiVirgilio and Lawler did the rest to secure the game by a decisive margin. Lawler scored five for Lambert, while George, a sophomore, led South with three.
“We're still a very young team,” South coach Travis Pearre said. “They have nine or ten seniors; I have one. We're kind of rebuilding and growing, and I had a lot of young kids play tonight. We gave them a game and we fought hard the whole time, and I'm proud of my kids. It's a learning experience.”
The South-Lambert rivalry is a competitive one, but one devoid of any animosity. The two teams gathered at the center of the field to pose for pictures with youth players after the game. Casey and DiVirgilio played together in that environment growing up, and they're glad to be sticking together for a few more years.
“The fact that we get to play the next four years together is really cool because I feel like we're both really good athletes,” DiVirgilio said. “We'll be good teammates later on."