After South Forsyth girls soccer players shook hands with their rival counterparts Tuesday night, the Lady War Eagles walked to their bench in relative silence.
Senior defender Alli Norton noticed the hush rather than thrill of victory as she walked with a teammate.
“We were way more excited to win against them last year,” she said.
Indeed, the celebration for both South’s girls and boys soccer teams after 4-2 and 1-0 victories, respectively, against Lambert were unusually subdued.
South head coach Tom Braun noted it too.
“Even the crowd was a little quieter. Normally it’s a lot more raucous,” Braun said. “The environment, it just seemed like a regular non-region game. I was kind of shocked that we didn’t have that kind of electricity going through us and them and the crowd, so I don’t what happened.”
Still, South liked the results. Its No. 2-ranked girls team remained undefeated and stayed in a tie for first place in Region 5-7A with Milton, a 3-2 winner in overtime against West Forsyth on Tuesday. Its boys team also remained in a tie for first place in the region with Milton.
Braun reminded his teams of their position after their games.
“You’re at the top,” Braun said. “Now let’s stay there.”
But early on, South’s girls were behind. Lambert’s Maddie Haugen struck just 2 minutes 25 seconds in to the game when she collected a long feed and juked South goalkeeper Courtney O’Malley for an easy shot.
The Lady War Eagles (6-0-0, 2-0) didn’t take long to respond. Seven minutes later, Jenna Vollrath played a ball up the middle for Nikki Bario, who floated it over charging Lambert goalkeeper Jordyn Ebert to tie the game.
Meagan Postell gave South the lead with 17:46 left in the first half, finishing a long free kick by Allyson Peppenhorst with a header to the right side of the net. Vollrath set up Lauren Kelly for another South goal just 2:14 in to the second half, and though Katelyn Castelli scored in the 63rd minute to pull Lambert within 3-2, Postell added another goal in the 68th on a curling corner kick that fooled teammates and Ebert alike.
“When someone scores that early, it’s always hard to protect that lead for 78 or 77 minutes,” Braun said. “We just had to settle down and not panic. These kids have played an awful lot. They’re kind of used to it.”
And yet, South’s boys proved Braun wrong.
Just 4:46 in, South created a corner kick opportunity. Trevor Byrne sent the kick to the back post, where it deflected off a turning Ryan Lessard’s side and to the back of the net.
“I didn’t expect it to make it all the way back, but once it did I just let it hit me and go in,” Lessard said. “Trevor always has good serves.”
That was all South needed. Not that Lambert made it easy. The Longhorns produced more and more pressure, particularly in the second half, with corner kicks and free kicks and runs from seniors Eoin Griffith and Zane Ziegler. But Lambert managed few clean looks against goalkeeper Aarnav Sandhu, whose five saves in relief of first-half starter Walker Haymond were relatively stress-free.
“We bent; we didn’t break,” Braun said. “That’s the whole name of the game.”