It didn’t happen in a dimly lit meeting room, and fans don’t need handwritten testimony to know what happened.
It’s perfectly clear what Elizabeth Lambert did. The UNM soccer player threw punches and pulled the hair of her opponents during a match Thursday, and for this she is suspended indefinitely, head coach Kit Vela said in a statement released on Friday.
“Liz is a quality student-athlete, but in this instance her actions clearly crossed the line of fair play and good sportsmanship,” Vela said.
In the women’s soccer Mountain West Conference Tournament semi-final match between the Lobos and BYU, Lambert repeatedly made aggressive plays. Some bordered on dirty, but others were clearly over the line. Still, Lambert only got one yellow card toward the end of the game.
BYU forward Kassidy Shumway took the harshest of Lambert’s attacks. Lambert yanked down on Shumway’s ponytail, sending her to the turf where she lay for several seconds.
“I am deeply and wholeheartedly regretful for my actions,” Lambert said in a statement Friday. “My actions were uncalled for. I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept any punishment felt necessary from the coaching staff and UNM administration.”
Lambert let her emotions get the best of her on a second, third and fourth occasion during the game before she was finished.
Lambert threw a punch to the back of BYU forward Carlee Payne after Payne elbowed Lambert in the stomach.
Later, Payne and Lambert exchanged blows in midair.
And with four minutes left in the game, Lambert tripped a BYU player. Officials penalized Lambert with a yellow card on that play — it was the only penalty Lambert received throughout the game. It was also the only penalty given to either team on Thursday.
BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood, shying away from talking about the specific incidents, said her team managed to play on through Lambert’s actions.
“Soccer at the Division I level is very physical,” Rockwood said. “Some games are more physical than others, and like I tell my players, we just need not to react when those things happen and make sure we do the best that we can. Both Carlee and Kassidy continued on with the game and really tried hard to not let that affect their play.”
Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs said Lambert’s actions were reprehensible.
“Liz’s conduct on the field against BYU was completely inappropriate,” Krebs said in a statement. “There is no way to defend her actions.”
Lambert expressed remorse for her actions and apologized to the BYU players.
“This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player that I am,” Lambert said. “I am sorry to my coaches and teammates for any and all damages I have brought upon them. I am especially sorry to BYU and the BYU women’s soccer players that were personally affected by my actions. I have the utmost respect for the BYU women’s soccer program and its players.”
BYU went on to win the game, finishing the Lobos’ season at 13-5-3. And with a tournament game tomorrow, Rockwood said the team just wants to move on.
“I think we all understand that soccer is a physical game and that emotions are high,” Rockwood said. “We don’t really want to comment on it. People were battling and giving it a lot of effort, and some unfortunate things happened, and we just want to move forward.”
Be sure to read the Daily Lobo on Monday for an update to this story.