Everything was going according to the South Forsyth girl soccer team’s plans in the second half Tuesday against rival Lambert. Jenna Vollrath had given the Lady War Eagles an early lead, scoring in the first half while South played against the wind. The Lady War Eagles’ defense was mostly frustrating the Lady Longhorns’ potent attack.
The plan almost unraveled in the 53rd minute. Lambert senior Maggie Hanusek made a nice run into the left side of the box, and the Appalachian State signee unleased a fierce shot toward the far half of the goal.
But South sophomore goalkeeper Courtney O’Malley’s diving save preserved the No. 3-ranked Lady War Eagles' 1-0 victory against No. 2 Lambert.
Vollrath’s goal became the game’s lone finish, a close-range shot in the 13th minute off a sharp pass from Nikki Bario that helped keep South’s region title hopes alive and dealt its heated rivals a second loss in region play.
“That’s what we wanted,” O’Malley said. “That’s what we’ve been working for the whole season. It’s always the Lambert game.
“It just feels really good, and everybody made the difference.”
One of the few glaring question marks for South (9-1, 4-1) entering the season was in goal. The Lady War Eagles had enjoyed the luxury of continuity the past three seasons with goalkeeper Hannah Goudy. She started every game, a 5-foot-10 keeper with experience and talent that landed her an athletic scholarship with the University of Georgia. O’Malley and fellow sophomore McKenna Galioto have been the answer. Often splitting time, the two have allow just four goals in 10 games, including seven shutouts.
On Tuesday, it was O’Malley from start to finish, though she had little drama. Lambert produced just six shots on goal, and only two required work by O’Malley.
But her second save required split-second decisions as Hanusek came speeding toward O’Malley in goal. Faced with the choice to charge and try to disrupt Hanusek’s run with a slide or sit back and react, O’Malley chose to wait.
“I knew one of my [defenders] was there, so I was just going to try to cut the angle off,” O’Malley said. “I knew she was going far half. Then, just a reaction I guess.”
Indeed, a leaping, full-extension, highlight-worthy reaction to her left that ignited both parties in the crowd.
“Courtney’s very athletic, and she’s very quick,” South head coach Tom Braun said. “The goalkeepers train hard every day, and it paid off.”
South’s win was its fourth in five games against Lambert (10-2, 4-2) and the sixth straight 1-0 game between the rivals. It also kept the Lady War Eagles a game behind West Forsyth, who took over first place with a win against Johns Creek on Tuesday.
And it made things a little tenser for the defending region champions and Class AAAAAA runners-up from last season.
“It makes our leash a little bit shorter,” Lambert head coach Scott Luthart said. “We’ve got a very talented West Forsyth [team] we have to get through. And obviously Centennial’s been a thorn in our side for a couple years. Can’t slip up. Right now we have to scrap and claw.”
South boys 1, Lambert 0
Jordan Pelletier’s rebounding goal off Adrian Garcia’s free kick in the 72nd minute helped the War Eagles break a three-game losing streak to its rivals Tuesday at home.
Lambert (6-6, 3-3) held virtually every statistical advantage over South (4-5, 2-3). The Longhorns out-shot the War Eagles, 19-5, and had more corner kicks (6-to-1).
But South made the most of its chance when it had to.
Garcia’s free kick from 20 yards out hit the crossbar, but it found Pelletier who was well-positioned in the box for an open look.
“I couldn’t miss that,” Pelletier said. “Got to put that in.”
South goalkeeper Walker Haymond preserved the shutout with eight saves, and the War Eagles got a much-needed boost for a young team.
“I think it really hasn’t sunk in for them,” Braun said. “They played really, really hard, and we’ve played hard all season and we just couldn’t catch a break. We caught a break [Tuesday].”