Madison Haugen was there.
She was in seventh grade back then, but Haugen was in the stands at Mercer University the last time the Lambert girls soccer team played in a state championship game, when the Longhorns faced Grayson in 2015 and her sister, Emily, was playing forward. Lambert lost that game 5-0, and Haugen has carried the memory into her own playing career with the Longhorns.
“Now I want to beat Grayson, for my sister and for everybody else,” Haugen said.
On Saturday, she’ll have a chance for revenge. Lambert beat Mill Creek 4-0 on Tuesday night in the state semifinals to move on to the championship match, and Haugen scored a hat trick. The Longhorns will again face Grayson, who beat South Forsyth in Tuesday’s other semifinal matchup.
Monday was a defining statement for Haugen, who has emerged as a strong threat at forward as a freshman.
Her first goal came 20 minutes into the second half, when she received a ball from Maddie Eddleman near the edge of the box, turned and struck a shot into the right side of the goal. With three minutes remaining in the game, she got another ball from Eddleman with momentum forward, zipped past the keeper and finished on an open net, and roughly a minute later, she finished a long pass over the top from Ellie Prybylski.
The trio of goals gave Haugen 20 on the season, equaling the school record her sister set.
“I’m just happy I have teammates that can give me the ball, and all that I can do for them is just finish it,” Haugen said. “I just wanted to get it for them.”
The win was also continuation of the astonishing year Lambert’s defense has put together. The Longhorns (19-3-0) played with a lead for most of the game, as Alisa Barr volleyed a goal home in the 14th minute.
That gave Mill Creek – a team that had scored 10 goals between its first three playoff games – license to devote much of its energy to crafting attacks from the midfield. The Hawks made numerous pushes deep into Lambert’s half, but its shots on goal stayed comfortably in the single digits, and Longhorns goalkeeper Jordyn Ebert wasn’t forced to make any particularly difficult saves.
“They ramped up the intensity and really made it difficult for us in the second half,” Lambert head coach Scott Luthart said. “But at the same time, we were very disciplined, I thought, and did a good job of containing them.”
The shutout was the Longhorns’ eighth in a row and 16th of the year. The last goal they allowed came more than a month ago, during a 7-3 win on April 6 against Hilton Head Island.
The bus driver who took Lambert to South Carolina and back for that trip – “bus driver Craig,” as the team knew him – was in attendance on Tuesday night. The four goals the Longhorns scored might have seemed pedestrian to him, as Lambert poured in 15 in two games during the spring break trip.
That didn’t stop him from joining the celebration. As the team mobbed together after the final whistle, he lifted Haugen high in the air, the freshman’s ascent taking a turn for the literal.