Since they’ve played lacrosse at Lambert, the Longhorns’ boys program has always had great teams, elite teams, teams that have played for or won state championships. Indeed, it’s been four years since Lambert has had any other kind of team.
Longhorns director of lacrosse Rich Wehman said his most recent teams have not started out that way. They’ve always required some amount of tinkering early on, some shuffling of personnel, some period of self-discovery before taking off.
Not this season. Lambert put its chemistry and potential on display Tuesday in a 13-4 victory against Milton at home in a non-area game to extend the Longhorns’ winning streak to five games.
Lambert (5-0) used a balanced offensive attack with seven different players scoring. Matt O’Rourk led the Longhorns with three goals, but John DiViriglio, Hunter Shepherd and Eric Overbay had two and Trey Arnold, Hayden Barnes and Alex Walker each added a goal.
Meanwhile, Lambert’s defense stifled the normally-formidable Eagles to just two goals through three quarters. The Longhorns out-shot Milton, 41-18.
“We’re clicking on a lot of cylinders right now,” Wehman said, “which is great, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
It was an impressive performance in a game slated as a rematch of last season’s Class AAAAAA semifinal. Meetings between the accomplished programs had come to be compelling, tight affairs. The last four had been decided by two goals or less, including Lambert’s 10-8 victory last season in the state playoffs on the way to its fourth straight state championship appearance.
Lambert asserted itself from the start Tuesday. Arnold and DiViriglio commanded the faceoff. The Longhorns dominated possession. Lambert raced out to a 5-0 lead as O’Rourk, DiViriglio, Overbay and Shepherd scored from all angles. The Longhorns’ defense forced Milton into protracted possessions and long shots.
“We shut them off behind, we shut off their attack,” Lambert defender Brady Berman said. “We had good middie defense, good slides. We just talked well and played well.”
The game fit the dominating trend for Lambert thus far. The Longhorns have defeated teams by an average score of 14-3. They’ve not allowed more than four goals in a game. They went into the night ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAA by Laxpower.com, No. 4 across all classifications and No. 4 in the entire South by TopLaxRecruits.com.
Wehman attributed some of the strong start to an experienced roster, some to rigorous competition during practice.
“We have a lot of kids that can play,” Wehman said, “so in practice we have kids who are constantly pushing each other.”
Berman attributed some of it to players’ familiarity with each other, some to the sting of the Longhorns’ 6-5 loss to Roswell in the state championship last season.
“I think everyone is just really upset from last year with going out with a tough loss by one,” Berman said. “Everyone comes out and we work hard in practice. We really want to get a ring, so we’re all working to the same goal.”
Either way, Lambert has looked the part of a championship contender again. Wehman and his staff did the tinkering before the season to ensure that, particularly on defense. Defensive staples Dillon Alexander, Connor McCann and Logan Wood graduated, so the Longhorns moved Chris Price from middie to close defense, Jaryd Jean-Felix from middie to long stick middie and Trevor Holmes from attack to long stick middie.
“The defense is the strength of this team,” Wehman said.
And it will be put to the test soon. Three of Lambert’s next five games are against teams ranked in the top 5 in Class AAAAAA, including a rematch against Roswell on March 21.
For as auspicious as Lambert has started, the Longhorns feel they still have a long way to go.
“We’ve got to really elevate our game,” Wehman said. “That’s what good championship teams do. They continue to get better. So we’ve just got to continue to keep working and keep improving.”