This was a different look for the Lambert girls soccer team.
Early in the first half of their second round state playoff game against Peachtree Ridge on Wednesday, the Longhorns were having to spend extended stretches in their own half, with the Lions forcing long balls into that section of the field whenever possible. Lambert goalkeeper Maddy Schulte had to get in position to make a save, if needed, and the Longhorns' fullbacks were having to actually defend, as opposed to basically serving as wingers down either flank. The scale of the Longhorns' dominance this season has made those otherwise typical footballing tasks seem unusual.
"We've definitely been challenged before, but we haven't been pressed that consistently and that hard," Longhorns senior Ellie Prybylski said. "They were just such a hard-working team that it was just different to deal with."
But Lambert has also shown the ability to strike with shocking quickness this season, and that happened again against the Lions in the Longhorns' eventual 4-0 win. As right back Sydney Hennessey tried to start a move forward, dribbling towards the middle of the field, Lions midfielder Daniela Henriquez grabbed her jersey and yanked it, hard enough to slow Hennessey's progress and draw a yellow card.
Hennessey took the ensuing free kick and struck it purely, the ball knuckling through the air. It found Madison Haugen in the box, who headed the ball backwards, where Prybylski took a touch before scoring what might have been the most impressive goal out of the Longhorns' great many this season, scalding a strike 30 yards to the far post and over a diving goalkeeper.
"That is definitely in the running for goal of the year," Lambert head coach Scott Luthart said.
That seemed to be the boost Lambert needed: Less than five minutes after that, Prybylski found Haugen with a long ball down the left flank, and the junior striker took a few dribbles before finishing to the far post.
Haugen had to exit the game with just over 18 minutes left in the first half after taking a shot to the head, and for a long stretch of the game, her absence left the Longhorns looking less threatening on offense. And with Peachtree Ridge renewing its aggressive push forward in the second half, Lambert entered "bend but don't break" mode at times.
"That's when the momentum kind of turned back," Luthart said. "Kind of like we had to survive this half, get out unscathed. Second half, game on. If they would've gotten one in the first 12 minutes, I think this game's coming down to the final seconds."
But Lambert eventually put the game well out of reach in the second half. With 10:41 remaining in the game, Prybylski hit a free kick off the crossbar, and Faith Ferrer got a foot on the ball to finish from the ensuing chaos. And with 4:20 to play, Ferrer made a run into the left side of the box, and while her shot was saved, a wide-open rebound fell to Kendall Page, who slotted it in.
Wednesday was at times a sign of tougher opposition to come in the playoffs for Lambert, but the nerviest moments have yet to arrive. The Longhorns (21-0-0) are set to host Hillgrove next week in the state quarterfinals.