With a chance to push ahead of the pack in Area 3-AAAAAA, Lambert’s boys’ lacrosse team stormed out to a 7-1 lead over Johns Creek last Thursday, only to squander that lead and fall 10-9.
That loss was a tough pill to swallow for a group that hasn’t experienced much adversity this season, and coach Rich Wehmen saw the disappointment on his players’ faces. According to Wehmen, most defeats are easy to get over, but the effects of this one seemed to linger.
Two days later, Lambert once again built a 7-1lead—this time against Centennial, the reigning state champions. Once again, however, the Longhorns let their opponent claw back, allowing the Knights to come within one goal late in the second half.
But Lambert held on this time around, earning a 10-8 victory to remain in contention for the area title.
In the midst of their most vital stretch of the 2014 regular season, this is not how the Longhorns envisioned things would play out. But for a team that relies on a lot of younger players, these struggles figure to serve as important lessons moving forward as the state tournament looms.
“We had an opportunity Thursday (against Johns Creek) and let it get away,” Wehmen said. “We learned from it. We moved on. But the combination of these two games, I think maybe the boys are starting to understand what it takes at this level.”
There is no one issue that plagued the Longhorns against Johns Creek. Rather, it was a combination of problems: untimely penalties, ill-advised shots, low energy, among others.
The same complications returned against Centennial, but the Longhorns recovered in time to salvage the win. Wehmen believes that was a test of Lambert’s character, and the players seemed to pass.
“When Centennial pulled into one goal, the guys probably thought, ‘Here we go again,’” he said. “But we pulled it together, and I think we’re learning. When you have a lead you have to understand the position you’re in.”
Now, after having some time to decompress, the Longhorns look ahead to Thursday’s match against Alpharetta—the third and final game of this important stretch. With the regular season set to conclude at the end of the month, how Lambert fares versus the Raiders could set the tone for the playoffs.
As of Wednesday, Lambert, Centennial and Johns Creek all have just one loss in the area, and if that remains the case, they will split area championship honors. However, there will be a tiebreaker for state tournament seeding.
The tiebreaker, which measures goal differential in head-to-head match-ups, would give Centennial the top seed in the area, followed by Lambert and Johns Creek, respectively.
So if the Longhorns can take care of business against Alpharetta and beat South Forsyth in the regular season finale, they’ll be in good shape heading into the playoffs. The road to state may have been bumpier than they hoped for, but perhaps that will be for the best.
“When we’re playing well and executing the way we can, we’re just fine,” Wehmen added. “It comes down to whether we can stay focused for four quarters.
“I think going into state playoffs there’s probably 10 different teams that can win this. In the end, I think it’s going to come down to execution. These last few games have taught us a lot about that.”