In a lot of ways, Grayson and Lambert mirrored one another through portions of Saturday’s GHSA Class AAAAAA girls soccer championship match.
A handful of plays, however, proved to be the difference as Grayson won 5-0 to capture the first outright state title in program history on Saturday at Mercer’s Five Star Stadium. The Rams shared a state title in 2007.
Duluth’s boys, meanwhile, defeated Brookwood 2-0 for the Class AAAAAA boys title.
Both sides in the girls game had ample scoring chances, especially in the first half. But the Rams took advantage, netting three goals to lead 3-0 at the half. It ended up being more than enough.
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The win was a redemption for Grayson (20-3), which finished as runner-up last year to Harrison after leading 1-0 at halftime and losing 2-1. The Rams made sure that didn’t happen against the Longhorns, continuing to turn away Lambert scoring chances in the second half against goalkeeper Jesse Grogan, as well as adding on a pair of goals to put the win away.
“They were focused on it, they knew what they lost last year, it was a tough loss on them,” Grayson head coach Terry Klinect said. “They’ve matured and they’ve gotten experienced, and it showed (Saturday). It was hot and it was tough, and they just kept fighting.”
The Rams’ youth led the way Saturday. Sophomore Brittany Montgomery scored two goals and junior Jennifer Westendorf also scored twice with another junior, Amanda Bakersocring, scoring once.
The match was Westendorf’s final one for Grayson. She’ll graduate high school early in December to enroll at Notre Dame to play soccer for the Fighting Irish.
Westendorf got the Rams going in the ninth minute, corralling a loose ball and powering it past Lambert goalkeeper Jordyn Ebert from the left side of the box.
“When (Westendorf) scored that first one, it just made us realize that this was our year and that we were going to do whatever it took to win,” Montgomery said.
Grayson added to its lead 11 minutes later, and it came right after a big defensive stand. Lambert (20-4) was setting itself up for a game-tying goal by Maggie Hanusek, but she was unable to finish the scoring chance, and the Rams cleared the ball toward midfield. That’s where Grayson’s Montgomery took over, dribbled the ball down the left side and hammered a shot from the left outside into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
“The midfield did a good job of distributing it upfield,” Klinect said. “They just worked so hard to create those opportunities.”
Another defensive gem helped Grayson pad its advantage just before the end of the half. Amanda Baker came up with a steal, and her shot from 30 yards away found the back of the net for a 3-0 lead in the 39th minute of the first half.
Montgomery made it 4-0 in the 35th minute of the second half, getting a feed from Westendorf 30 yards from the goal and shot the ball past Ebert. Westendorf took advantage of a defensive breakdown in the game’s final four minutes to extend the Rams lead to 5-0.