At the start of the second half, three Lambert girls soccer starters sat on the sidelines. They were there to rest and watch – to rest from the battering they took in the first half, and to watch their opponent, North Paulding, after a disjointed first half.
When they returned 10 minutes in rested and processed, the Lady Longhorns took off, scoring three goals in a 12-minute span and cruising to a 4-1 victory against the Lady Wolfpack on Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAAAA tournament.
No. 3-ranked Lambert (18-2) advances to face the winner of Collins Hill-Lakeside DeKalb on Friday at home.
On the whole, it was the second straight commanding performance by the Lady Longhorns in these playoffs. Lambert held a 22-3 advantage in shots over North Paulding. It produced four corner kicks to North Paulding’s one. Lady Longhorns senior forward Emily Haugen, the newly minted Region 6-AAAAAA Player of the Year, justified the honor with two goals. Lambert also got goals from Maggie Hanusek and Emma Lonergan, with assists from Evan Boland, Maddie Eddleman and Olivia Haugan.
At intermission, it was a different story. By then, Lambert had discovered it was playing a different kind of soccer. The Lady Longhorns had contended with a Pope team with sharp footwork in the first round. What North Paulding (11-6) lacked in fancy footwork it made up for in brute effort.
Lady Wolfpack players crashed on loose balls, finished tackles, and gradually Lambert players needed breaks. Hanusek came out in the 23rd minute. Haugan took a breather in the 28th.
“It was physically off the charts,” Lambert head coach Scott Luthart said. “They were as physical, more physical, than anyone we’ve played.”
“They would just go in hard on every tackle and just keep working,” Haugen said.
Hanusek, Haugan and starting midfielder Keely Cartrett stayed on the sideline for the first seven minutes of the second half. The rest was useful, for sure, but Luthart also thought the team needed to “mix it up.” The Lady Longhorns led 1-0, thanks to Haugen’s rebounder in the 38th minute, but they weren’t in sync.
“Sometimes when they can’t sort it out there in the field of play, it’s hard,” Luthart said. “The game moves fast. It’s not a bad idea to let it process from [the sideline] every once in a while.”
Eventually, it was time to get all hands on deck again. Hanusek and Haugan returned in the 47th minute. Cartrett re-entered in the 50th minute.
A few minutes later, Hanusek finished a deflected corner kick with a header to put Lambert up 2-0. Haugen scored her second goal in the 62nd minute. Lonergan entered the game in the 67th minute and scored two minutes later, and Lambert was comfortably ahead, 4-0.
The Lady Longhorns managed to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, even if North Paulding made it a little tougher than expected.
“I think it helps us become tougher as a team,” Haugen said.