SUWANEE — After building the longest winning streak in the nation over the last 15 months, Lambert’s boys lacrosse team wasn’t about to let it end here.
The unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Longhorns earned their 42nd consecutive victory and repeated as the Class AAAA-A state champions on Saturday, defeating Pope 10-7 at The Horn in a rematch of last year’s title game.
“It’s a great way for these seniors to go out,” Lambert director of lacrosse Rich Wehman said. “These guys, in their three years of playing here, have been 61-3, and we don’t play light competition.”
Senior Cory Phillips turned in a first-period hat trick to give the Longhorns a lead they would not relinquish, and junior Matt Geran scored two of his three goals in the final 10 minutes of play to seal the win.
The margin of victory was smaller than last season’s 14-7 victory over the Greyhounds and the postgame celebration a bit more subdued, but for players like Geran, the second time around was even sweeter.
“It just kind of feels surreal,” said Geran, who also recorded an assist and picked up a game-high 10 ground balls. “Our seniors did it last year and I just kind of rode the bench, but this year I [played a big role] and it just means a lot more.”
Pope (16-4-1) took a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, but Phillips responded with two quick scores for the Longhorns (22-0).
Geran and Peyton Smith (2 goals, 1 assist) added goals of their own in the period to give Lambert an early 4-1 lead, before Phillips tacked on another to bring the score to 5-2.
“Everything was clicking, right place, right time,” Phillips said.
“I just went all out in the first quarter those first couple of times to get that lead.”
Pope cut the edge to 5-4 before Brady Wilson scored for Lambert with 6:17 remaining in the second period, marking the final goal of the first half.
Smith added his second score less than three minutes into the third period, and Ted Ryan answered a goal by Pope’s Holland Frost late in the period to put the Longhorns ahead 8-5 going into the final period.
Geran tallied his second goal at the 9:31 mark of the final period, recovering a ground ball and sending a low shot into the net to give the Longhorns their biggest lead of the game, 9-5.
Pope had one final chance to rally after Zack Powers cut the lead to 9-6. Goalie Sam Rose stopped another shot by Geran with under four minutes to play, but Smith and Ryan blocked his attempt to send the ball down the field.
Geran recovered the ball and scored Lambert’s 10th goal to ice the game.
The Longhorns have scored at least 10 goals in 28 of their last 29 games dating back to the 2011 season.
“Last year we scored a lot of goals in transition, and a lot of teams took us away from that this year,” Wehman said.
“We had to play a little bit differently this year. I would say last year’s team was probably better in transition, and this team was probably a little bit more balanced.”
Kyle O’Donnell won more than two-thirds of the faceoffs (15-7) in the game for the Longhorns, who also came out ahead of Pope in the battle for ground balls (43-32).
Senior goalie Alec McNamara stopped eight shots.
“It’s just crazy,” said senior Zack Price, who, along with teammate Braxton Roman, will join former Longhorn Adam Seal on the High Point University lacrosse team next season.
“You don’t see teams repeat that much because they lose focus and just get hot-headed. For us to come back and win it again is even better, especially as a senior.”