POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — The saga of girls soccer between Lambert and Grayson continued last Saturday on the highest stage – the Class AAAAAAA state championship – with the Lady Longhorns finally victorious over Grayson in an overtime thriller.
The two teams were meeting for the third time in the playoffs in four years and the second time in the state championship. Grayson ousted Lambert in the first round of the playoffs in 2014 and won a lopsided match, 5-0, in the Class AAAAAA state championship game in 2015.
But Lambert seniors Jordyn Ebert, Daniela Conroy and Maddie Eddleman finally got their payback with a 2-1 overtime win over Grayson at McEachern High Saturday.
The trio of seniors led the young Lambert team to its first state championship with the win. Though the number of seniors were few, head coach Scott Luthart said their influence was extraordinary.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group amongst those three,” Luthart said. “We were so young this year so it was crucial to have those seniors to lead the group and to be someone to look to. It’s great to see them finally get what they deserve.”
The entirety of Lambert’s team certainly deserved its state championship after what Luthart called his team’s most intense game of the year.
“Grayson’s style of play, their athleticism, speed and physicality is something that kind of disrupted us,” Luthart said. “We are technical, but Grayson has some pure athletes to play that way and to defend that kind of team for 90 minutes is difficult.”
It was Lambert who looked to disrupt Grayson in the early-going of the game with multiple scoring chances before a goal from Eddleman in the 21st minute put the Lady Longhorns up 1-0. A corner was deflected to Eddleman on the left side of the goal and she quickly collected the ball and put a shot in the top right corner off the crossbar.
With Lambert still leading 1-0 at the half, Luthart used the break to discuss with his team how to react if they scored again, or if Grayson, a team who had not been shut out all season, scored. And if Grayson did score, it would be the first time the Lady Longhorns had surrendered a goal in eight games, so the discussion was vital, Luthart said.
Less than a minute into the second half, that discussion came into effect as Grayson scored with a shot off the crossbar that deflected off goalkeeper Ebert and into the net.
Ebert and the rest of the Lambert squad regrouped and a frenetic second half ensued, continuing a flurry of shots by both teams.
Legs and bodies tired from the fast-pace game and fatigue became a factor in the last three minutes, Luthart said, but neither team was able to break the stalemate, forcing overtime.
“Credit to our goalkeeper (Ebert) for keeping us in it,” he said.
Two minutes into the first overtime period, a free-kick from M.E. Craven was gathered by Alisa Barr and buried to put the Longhorns up 2-1 on what would prove to be the championship-clinching goal.
But before that goal proved to be the game-winner, Lambert had to play smart to avoid allowing Grayson to score a second goal. And with a team GPA of 3.94, the Lady Longhorns did just that.
Lambert switched to a 4-3-2-1 and controlled possession for the majority of the remaining first overtime and nearly all of the second.
And finally, the Lady Longhorns had overcome Grayson, and captured their first state title in the process.
“We’re overjoyed with the result,” Luthart said. “I don’t think you can find a group of kids that deserve this more than our group.”