Lambert’s boys’ soccer team entered its first round state playoffs contest in good spirits, having recently won the Region 6-AAAAAA title and earning a home game in the Class AAAAAA tournament.
Eighty minutes of action later, the Longhorns left devastated.
Lambert, playing the same South Gwinnett club they beat in the second round of last spring’s state tournament, fell to the Comets at home, 2-1, bringing an end to a memorable season.
“I feel bad for our seniors,” head coach Chris Wilson said. “I don’t think we gave [South Gwinnett] our best performance today, but South Gwinnett definitely came to play from the start.”
Wilson believes his players were nervous from the get-go, which could explain Lambert’s hesitancy to drive toward the net and take advantage of all its quality chances.
While Lambert controlled possession for the vast majority of the day, it failed to generate many quality chances—especially in the second half. South Gwinnett, on the other hand, didn’t put many shots on net but made those few opportunities count.
“We sat back a lot and felt that was the safer thing to do than to step up and go at (South Gwinnett),” said Wilson. “Sometimes that’s what happens in the playoffs. You think it’s better to sit back rather than press, and we made that mistake.”
Comet defender Mohomed Swaray struck first with a goal 27:34 into the first half, straying from his post by sprinting up the field to beat Lambert goaltender Jake Nelson.
Lambert senior Cooper Coughlin evened the score with just 35.9 seconds left before halftime with a point-blank shot.
Coughlin had several quality chances in the first half, including one less than 45 seconds after the opening whistle, but South Gwinnett goalkeeper Max Catamaglia stood strong and came up big time and time again.
“This wasn’t my best game, to be honest,” Coughlin said. “It was nice to score, but I could have been better.”
With the match knotted up at one goal apiece, Comet midfielder Mahamed Bashir put South Gwinnett up for good by scoring with just 10:54 left in regulation. That proved to be a back-breaker for the Longhorns, who lost quite a bit of momentum following that tally.
This marked Lambert’s fifth trip to the playoffs in program history and is the first year it didn’t advance beyond the opening round.
Still, 2014 will go down as a memorable campaign for the Longhorns, who have lots of positives to reflect on and perhaps even more to look forward to next season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” Wilson said. “Winning region, the results we got — I think we could have won just about every game up until this point if we were more consistent.”
“It was a great year,” Coughlin added. “We rallied a lot and won as much as we could. We controlled our destiny the whole time.
“These are my best friends; I love them all. And I’m going to miss them a lot.”