By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
The night began as evenly as it could.
Lambert and visiting West Forsyth met Friday at The Horn with sole possession of first place on the line. The Wolverines entered the second half with a 6-3 lead, thanks in part to a pair of late goals in the final minutes before the break, yet the two teams sat close to even in nearly every other measurable statistic.
The second half was a tad more decisive.
West poured seven straight goals onto its first-half lead, as the Wolverines surged their way to an eventual 14-4 route of their hosts and a first-place standing in the region.
“We talked about it at the half actually, and we’ve had a saying lately — smell the blood in the water,” West coach Chris Kiefer said. “That’s one of the things we’ve struggled with in the past, is putting teams away. But I think with consistent lacrosse, we’re really hard to beat.”
Lambert seized control in the opening minutes, taking a 1-0 lead on Ellie Kotanian’s first of three goals while using draw control and an even-keeled pace on offense to effectively play keep-away with the West offense.
It took nearly seven minutes for the Wolverines to complete a successful clear and just under 13 minutes for them to find the net for the first time, courtesy of Jenna Burrow’s first of three goals.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Lambert coach Travis Church said. “We had a gameplan going in and it got away from us, and that’s a team that if you don’t execute your gameplan, they’re going to capitalize on it. We executed it for about two-fifths of the game and the other three-fifths it got away from us.”
The Wolverines tacked on three more consecutive goals before Lambert could respond, using both sharp and efficient offensive possessions with a swarming, fluid defensive effort — crowding each Longhorn attacker on her approach and winning the resulting ground balls.
The Longhorns used a pair of successful free-position plays to pull back within a single goal late in the half before the nine-goal run by the Wolverines all but decided the game.
“They’re a very effective team offensively,” Church said. “We were really trying to limit their possessions, and if you look at our very first possession of the game we had the ball down on our end for I think seven of the first eight minutes of the game and that was our gameplan going in. It’s one of those things where they go on a run and we start pressing a little bit and it gets away from you.”
Despite the even start, West dominated nearly every statistical category. The Wolverines outshot their opponents 29-16 on the night, earned 13 free-position plays to Lambert’s eight, and goalie Emma Anderson finished a stellar night in the net with five saves.
Junior Cami Merkel led the Wolverines with five goals on 10 shots. Burrow netted her trio on five shots, while sophomore Noelle Kirley scored three times on six attempts.
In addition to the second-half offensive surge and dominant defensive performance, the Wolverines got help from players stepping up when needed.
After losing seven of 10 draws in the first half, the Wolverines won seven of the final 10, thanks largely to freshman Ansley Athey taking over the faceoff duties.
“We started to use — it’s a draw stick,” Kiefer said. “We started to use it and she’s almost like a Samurai with it. She can put the ball where she wants and it’s pretty impressive.”
Another major contribution came from junior Keila Reid, who stepped in with an admirably clutch performance at midfield despite typically playing defense.
“Keila Reid did things for us tonight that we asked her to do because we are a little light on middies, and it’s a committee, so we asked a couple of our defenders to come up on the circle and Keila Reid stepped up," Kiefer said. "I would say she did a fantastic job."
“We’re a little bit of an up-and-down team, and that second half really helped show our talent, our skill and our unity,” Reid said on her team’s second-half surge. “I think today was a great display of who we truly are as a team.”