One red card. Five yellow cards. Five girls carried off the field with an injury. Scoreless through regulation and overtime.
Friday night’s match between Lambert and West Forsyth showcased both teams' powerful defenses, and with Kendall Page winning the game for Lambert in penalty kicks 4-3, the Longhorns captured the Region 6-7A championship.
West’s leading scorer Tori DellaPeruta received a red card 20 minutes into the game, so West played the entire game with only 10 players against Lambert’s 11.
“We always feel like we’re in the mix for the best team in the state,” Lambert coach Scott Luthart said. “I don’t know if they outshot us, but they played a man short and were able to get quality looks off. Do I feel like we escaped? Eh, maybe a little bit, but we gave 100 percent.”
Along with Page, Anna Hines, Carly Wilson and Emerson Zimmerman all made their penalty kicks for Lambert as well. Their only miss was from goalie Heidi Harris, but she made up for by blocking two of West’s penalty kicks to give the Longhorns the advantage they needed to win.
“[Heidi] is absolutely insane,” Luthart said. “We practice penalty kicks at least once a week. I was telling them, ‘Heidi’s gonna stop one. We just need to score five.’ Well she blocked two, so we had to score four.”
Once West went down a player, West coach Jason Galt kept the exact same offensive scheme, but just moved three defenders to his back line rather than four.
“Going down a man made us scramble a little bit,” Galt said. “It’s not like football where you can call a timeout. You have to adjust on the run. We felt like we didn’t get too many chances in the first half.”
Luthart said that despite being a player up, his team struggled to adjust to West’s new scheme.
“It took us a while to mesh,” Luthart said. “We fiddled with our system a little bit once [DellaPeruta] went out. It really didn’t look like us, so we went back to our normal form for overtime.”
Courtney JeBavy had six shots on goal, but Harris had several saves where she left her feet to block the ball. Ava Martin had multiple shot attempts on goal in the second half but just couldn’t convert.
“I got a bunch of girls that have a ton of heart and fight until the very end,” Galt said. “When the man that you’re missing is arguably the best player in the state of Georgia, it’s hats off to our girls to battle like that and giving us a chance to win.”
With tonight’s win, Luthart confirmed that Lambert is the region champion since the Longhorns hold the tiebreaker against West and have just one region game remaining.
“Going into this year, I thought our region got stronger,” Luthart said. “Of all the years we’ve been in this region, this is clearly the toughest one to climb to the top of.”
The Longhorns (12-0-2, 5-0 Region 6-7A) play one more region game against South Forsyth on Friday to finish their region schedule.
Galt said he would love another chance to play Lambert this season, but now the match would likely have to come in the Class 7A state championship game.
“As a coach, you try to plan for every situation, but how do you drill for that?” Galt said. “The good thing is that we learned from it tonight, and if it happens again, we’ll be ready for it.”
The Wolverines (10-2, 4-1 Region 6-7A) will play their final region game against Forsyth Central on Thursday.