Playoff matchups are funny things.
Less than 10 minutes into their Class 7A first round match Wednesday, the Lambert boys soccer team trailed Mill Creek by a goal and looked very much like a No. 1-seeded team that was tensely playing down to an opponent with one win in past five games.
One Longhorn goal and roughly an hour later, Trey Hines calmly prepared himself for a crucial direct free kick he had volunteered himself for only seconds before.
The Lambert co-captain made his approach, shot and snuck a tricky ball just left of the lunging goalkeeper for a 2-1 lead that the Longhorns clung to and advanced with into the second round.
Lambert will face Brookwood, a 2-1 winner over Archer, on Wednesday.
“My team has confidence in me, I’ve made a few this season, and I just thought I’m a captain and I’ve got to step up and take it and put it in,’” Hines said.
Mill Creek pressed early and aggressively, owning every semblance of momentum and snatching their lead on a long, booming shot by Parker Thelen within seven minutes.
“I think we were a little bit flat,” Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. “But the way we responded in the next 15 minutes, tying the game up, that’s how we play.”
Respond they did.
The Longhorns settled, the momentum shifted, the shot column evened and then began favoring the Longhorns, and midway through the 25th minute it was freshman Tyler Nadiak who scored Lambert’s first goal of the 2018 postseason on a spectacularly-accurate ball by teammate Kyler Darsey, tying the score and cementing a momentum-shift that favored Lambert for the remainder.
“I made a run, Kyler Darsey played it through, I took a touch and just shot it back-post,” Nadiak said. “It was the best feeling in my whole life. It was awesome.”
Lambert followed their slow start by ultimately winning nearly every offensive category, outshooting the Hawks 19-7 and crossing six balls to Mill Creek’s one. The two teams tied with seven corner kicks apiece with a great deal of them for both teams landing threateningly within the box, yet none resulting in goals.
Having now survived and advanced beyond their opening round, the Longhorns will continue following their fourth region title in program history in their ultimate quest for a second state championship.
“In the playoffs, you’ve basically got to play 80 minutes from start to finish,” Wilson said. “After their goal, I think we played the way that we want to play. We’ll now have a week before we play again, so we can rest. I think we just need to finish.”