By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Pete Lambert has made a name for himself as one of the top boys soccer coaches in South Jersey during his career at Egg Harbor Township, but his players may be surprised to learn how good he was on the pitch during his high school and college days back in the 1990s.
Lambert recently was among eight selections into this year’s South Jersey Soccer Hall of Fame, which includes players, coaches and contributors to the sport. Despite all the success Lambert has enjoyed coaching the Eagles, he was inducted for his prowess as a player at Ocean City and Stockton University. As a midfielder for the Red Raiders from 1993-96, Lambert scored 38 goals and had nearly 60 assists while leading Ocean City to sectional and state titles as a junior in 1995, then, in 2001, he led Stockton to the NCAA Division III national championship.
The eight inductees in this year’s hall-of-fame class — which also includes former Hammonton star Danielle Frith, who scored more than 100 goals and was a 1,000-point scorer in basketball — were scheduled to be inducted during a ceremony on April 26, but due to the coronavirus pandemic this year’s class will be inducted in spring 2021.
“It was pretty awesome to have my name called and to get the phone calls and emails from the board. I was taken back. I was honored, for sure, and excited at the same time because I know some of the coaches and players who are in it and what they have achieved, and for my name to be called, I was really taken back. It was something special, for sure,” said Lambert, who led EHT into the South Jersey Group 4 championship game this past fall. “There are coaches who get inducted, supporters of the game and players, and I’m actually being inducted as a player. They said it could probably go either way, with playing or coaching, or maybe a combo deal, but since I’m actively coaching they wanted to induct me as a player.”
Lambert said during his Ocean City days no one player really stood out among the rest, as it was more a collective group of very talented players.
“The way I liked to play — and the way our coach wanted us to play — I was more into the distribution part of the game. I was able to score 38 goals in my career, but more importantly, I had 58 assists, which for a while was the record at the high school until Chad Severs took it,” he said. “The way we played back then and the team we had, nobody scored more than 20 goals in a season, we just all contributed, and that was my part of the game — trying to get the ball out to those guys who could finish.”
Lambert said now he has a little something to hold over the heads of his players, in case they don’t believe how good he was when he was their age. He also knows it took more than just talent to get to where he is today, and believes his hall-of-fame induction can be celebrated by both the Ocean City and Egg Harbor Township soccer communities.
“There’s not much I can hold over my players anymore — I can’t really play with them anymore — but now I can hold that over them. Even though I was at Ocean City, we won a championship and that’s our goal at EHT, to try to get there and win it. I hope these boys enjoy what I was able to experience. I was fortunate to experience the wins and the championships, and in college winning a national championship. That’s what I want my players to do, and to feel the same joy I did. That’s my goal as a coach,” said Lambert, who is the all-time winningest coach in EHT history with 133 victories. “I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in, having played the game at a high level and now to be able to be able to coach at a great school like EHT and be able to give back. It’s been a fun ride. My family has been a big support, my wife has been phenomenal with supporting the players and she’s our No. 1 fan. It’s a great sport, a great game, and it’s built a lot of bonds and friendships through the years. This is pretty cool. I like representing South Jersey, and even though I’m an Ocean City alumni I’m also representing EHT, and this is big for EHT. It’s not a ‘me’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing and I enjoy this moment with friends, coaches, players and former teammates. That’s what it’s all about.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays