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Hair-pulling on the field garners national attention

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: Sports


When people think of a catfight they tend to think of high school hallways, generally with someone shouting, “You took my boyfriend!” When they think of hair-pulling, a soccer field usually does not come to mind. Unfortunately, this was exactly what happened last week in the Mountain West Women’s Championship game between the Brigham Young University Cougars and the University of New Mexico Lobos.

BYU was leading the game 1-0 when Lobos junior defender Elizabeth Lambert seemed to lose control. While fighting for position a BYU elbowed Lambert, and she responded with a punch in the back. She followed with a lot of physical play; she was tripping and kicking other players. It looked a little more rough than usual, but nothing extreme.

Then Lambert crossed the line and did not look back. In response to a girl pushing her, Lambert yanked the BYU player, Kassidy Shumway’s, ponytail. She pulled so hard that Shumway’s head snapped back, and she fell to the ground. That somehow went unnoticed by the referees, but Lambert was not finished. Lambert kicked the ball into the face of a BYU girl who had just been tripped. For this Lambert finally received a yellow card. At the end of the game all of her dirty plays did not matter as BYU won the game 1-0, and the Lobos season was over.

After the game, it was announced that the New Mexico coach had suspended Lambert indefinitely. This was not a response from the NCAA, simply from the university. Lambert issued a statement where she apologized for her actions, saying they were uncalled for and she let her emotions get the best of her.

In her statement Lambert said, “This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player I am. 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.”

The apology is great, but it is one thing to let you emotions get the best of you and to play a little dirty. I do not think there is anyone who can watch the video of Lambert yanking this girl’s hair, or for that matter later slapping and punching another girl in there the head, and not think that is something much more serious happening. Shumway’s head does not just snap back; she completely crumples to the ground and does not move. It looks like a serious injury, and if the referees had seen the incident Lambert would probably have been issued a red card and removed from the game.

Even with this apology there has been a massive amount of coverage of the game. This is partially as it was nationally aired by ESPN. Whatever the reason women’s soccer has not gotten this much attention since Brandy Chastain ripped off her jersey in the 1999 Women’s World Cup. And it is even more unfortunate for the BYU players as their win against New Mexico, and their following wins, are overshadowed by Lambert’s personal actions. BYU went on to the finals of the Mountain West Championships, losing 1-0 to San Diego State. Even with the loss in the finals, BYU advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they play University of California- Santa Barbara Friday Nov. 13.