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South ousted from playoffs by Lambert

SUWANEE -- After upsetting top-ranked Lassiter last week in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state soccer playoffs, South Gwinnett's boys stepped back on the field Wednesday night looking to knock off another top 10 opponent in Lambert.

Instead, South became the second team from Gwinnett bumped from the playoffs in as many weeks as the Longhorns won by the slimmest of margins 1-0.

The loss ended a season for South that many thought would've been impossible when the season started as the Comets reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time since anyone could remember.

"This year was all about Comet pride and heart and our boys went out and played a hard game tonight." South head coach Chris Calvin said. "Lambert put the pressure on us and we just couldn't get into a rhythm on possession. We didn't come out in the first half like we did against Lassiter."

Even though South didn't get out in front like it did last week, it was still able to turn back Lambert (16-3) on virtually every possession it had in South territory.

Part of that was due to the Comets' size advantage in the defensive backfield, giving Derek Denton and Chris Keller the upper hand when it came to deflecting shots or redirecting passes from the Longhorns.

Still, the Lambert pressure finally paid off late in the first half when the Longhorns were awarded their first and only corner kick of the match.

Cooper Coughlin set up for the kick and instead of lofting it in the box in front of the goal, he quickly tapped it to Trexler Bennett, who was just a few feet away.

Bennett took two quick touches and got off a shot on the lower left corner of the goal. South keeper Max Catamaglia moved on the shot, but couldn't quite get there in time as it caromed off his hands and into the goal in the 38th minute.

"In pregame, we felt like the short corner kicks would be successful," Lambert assistant coach Scott Luthart said. "That turned out to be the difference in the match. South also had a lot of pace up top and that made us nervous, but our communication between our two center backs improved as the game wore on. That really helped our defense in the second half."

South (11-5-1) was able to muster several strong possessions in Lambert territory, but that lack of rhythm coach Calvin referred to hindered the Comets when it came to squaring up for a solid shot.

Their first shot on goal came with 29:00 left to play off a header from Malik Thornell off a free kick, but the attempt didn't have much on it and Lambert keeper Miles Maynard recorded an easy save.

Thornell would get another chance with 4:00 left when Austin Varney launched another long free kick into the box. This time, Thornell got off a much stronger header, but Maynard was able to stay on line with the shot and prevent the equalizer.

Those two shots on goal from Thornell would be all South would get, while Lambert managed six. Catamaglia was able to thwart five of those, but that one shot late in the first half proved to be the difference.

"For years, no one has given South Gwinnett a chance," Calvin said. "One of my favorite things about being a (South) alumni is that I wore the same jersey that these guys wear. I've got somthing that's more than what most head coaches have -- I have a love for this school and this program and go the extra mile and do the things I need to do."

Lambert will be on the road this Saturday in the quarterfinals at the winner of East Coweta/Campbell match.