Emily Haugen flew down the right side on a breakaway conflicted by regret and opportunity.
Thirty minutes before, the Lambert senior had a similar chance flying down the left side, juking Pope’s goalkeeper one-on-one with nothing but the invitation of an empty net in front of her. And then … clang. Her shot bounced off the right post.
So here was Haugen with less than two minutes left. Lambert’s two-goal lead was down to one. Haugen’s regret was fresh in her mind as she ran free of her defender and saw Pope’s goalkeeper charge. Haugen grounded a shot, and then …
“I was like, ‘Oh god, it’s going to hit the post again,’” Haugen said.
Instead, Haugen’s shot went in, teammates bombarded her, and the Lady Longhorns breathed for the final minute of a 3-1 victory against the Lady Greyhounds on Tuesday at home in the first round of the Class AAAAAA tournament.
Behind goals from Haugen, Maddie Eddleman and Maggie Hanusek, the No. 3-ranked Lady Longhorns (17-2) advance to play North Paulding, a 1-0 winner over Newnan, on May 5 at home.
“I thought this was our best game hands down,” Haugen said. “We came out as a team, worked together.”
Lambert coach Scott Luthart said his team knew Pope’s No. 4 seed was a ruse. The Lady Greyhounds (9-7) went 2-0 against Region 6-AAAAAA teams during the regular season, defeating Alpharetta and Johns Creek, and navigated a tough Region 5-AAAAAA schedule with a young roster.
To illustrate the travails Pope waded in this season: Region 5 went 3-1 against Region 6 in the first round Tuesday night.
Even worse: Luthart said Lambert had spent the previous day at practice walking through how to defend Pope’s 3-5-2 attack only for the Lady Greyhounds to come out in a 4-3-3 formation.
“That’s the best No. 4 seed you’re going to find,” Luthart said. “We knew that coming in. They’re very talented.”
But Lambert took control early. In the 12th minute, Eddleman attempted a free kick from 23 yards out in front of a two-defender wall, the ball sailing over both and through the leaping keeper’s hands into the back left corner to put Lambert up 1-0.
Lambert’s next best chance was on Haugen’s wide open miss, a disheartening error, but it produced a silver lining. Pope had trouble clearing the ball. Eddleman collected it, passed to Hanusek in the box, who made a nice turnaround shot to the far left corner to give the Lady Longhorns a 2-0 lead in the 44th minute.
Then Pope’s potential manifested itself. Lambert lost a hold on the pace and possession it’d controlled for much of the game, and it cost them in the 64th minute. Pope struck, and Lambert’s lead was down to 2-1.
“It got very tenuous there in the final half of the second half,” Luthart said. “Once they stretched us with their first goal, we had some defensive mismatches and some communication issues that broke down on us.”
Haugen contributed through the most anxious moments only in spurts. She struggled with cramps in the second half. Luthart subbed for her with 12:55 left in the game. Haugen didn’t return until there was 4:24 remaining.
But three minutes later, she and the Lady Longhorns were feeling just fine.
“We all really want this,” Haugen said. “We knew this was going to be a tough game. We got put against the hardest No. 4 [seeded] team. Our last two practices were all toward this game. We really came out and had a game plan and executed it.”