The first two coaches tried soft, insightful words, but the tears continued. The third coach tried an intense, rah-rah speech, and a few smiles broke through.
But, overall, there was little that could console the Lambert girls’ lacrosse team in the immediate aftermath of their 9-8 loss to Cambridge Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 6-7A state playoffs.
The Bears advance to face Milton Saturday for the state championship. The Longhorns (16-6) saw their historic season come to an end.
“It was just the clock ran out,” Lambert head coach Kate Sedgwick said. “I think we could’ve run easily. The clock ran out.”
Lambert had lost 8-4 to Cambridge in an Area 5-6/7A match during the regular season during what could be considered the low point of the Longhorns’ season; it was the last of three straight losses after a 5-0 start.
But the Longhorns entered Wednesday on a nine-game winning streak and with extra confidence after their 10-8 comeback win against Pope in the state quarterfinals last Friday. Sedgwick and the team had a chance to watch Cambridge play Walton in its state quarterfinal game that Saturday, so they were better prepared than when the teams played in March. Still, Lambert kept its focus inward.
“We knew it was all about what we needed to do to polish up and focus on our strengths,” Sedgwick said.
Sedgwick said she wanted the teams’ rematch to be “a dogfight,” and it was, as Lambert clawed back from down 8-5 in the second half with a goal from Peyton Smith (five goals), a goal from Gabby DiVirgilio and another from Smith to tie the game 8-8 with 5 minutes 8 seconds left.
Neither team mounted much for the next few minutes, until Cambridge’s Claire Xiao fired a long shot through a sliver of Lambert’s defense to put the Bears ahead with 1:38 left.
Smith seemed poised to tie the game just seconds later as she muscled to the goal, but the Kennesaw State signee was called for a charge, and Lambert went a man down with possession to Cambridge.
Lambert never got the ball again.
“Being a man down in a situation where they were going to stall the ball, that’s a tough task to execute,” Sedgwick said, “and we fell short tonight.”
Afterward, players circled for the last time, and Sedgwick and assistant coach Matt Lawler had poignant messages for them.
Not assistant coach Jim Boisjolie – he erupted, storming around the middle of the circle as he reminded them of how far they brought a program that had never won a state playoff game until this season.
“I’m proud of every single one of those girls,” Sedgwick said. “I’m proud of how far we came. It’s been an absolute great run this season.”