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MILWAUKEE (AP) - Elizabeth Lambert went from Internet sensation to the end of the bench.
The senior defender for New Mexico didn’t get on the field Friday night in her first chance since serving a two-game suspension. Lambert was the player caught on video in November yanking her opponent to the ground by the ponytail during the Mountain West Conference tournament.
The video was posted on the Internet and watched by millions worldwide.
Lambert was reinstated Tuesday, but didn’t talk to reporters then and didn’t appear in the first game she was eligible against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday.
School spokesman Frank Mercogliano said Lambert wouldn’t speak unless she was involved in a play that helped determine the outcome. The Lobos and the Panthers played to a 1-1 draw.
Lambert received a two-game suspension for her role in the widely publicized hair-pulling fracas against BYU. The most infamous images are of Lambert grabbing BYU’s Kassidy Shumway by her ponytail and yanking her to the ground, but Lambert also was the recipient of some rough play, receiving an elbow to the ribs during a dead ball and responding with one of her own.
The Lobos tried to distance their program from the wider debate the video sparked, including sexism in coverage of women’s sports. Lambert addressed those issues briefly after the episode in her only public comments when she told The New York Times, “I definitely feel because I am a female, it did bring about a lot more attention than if a male were to do it.”
New Mexico athletics director Paul Krebs said Lambert fulfilled the terms of her suspension by missing two games and other requirements that included keeping up her grades, participating in community service and staying away from the team until fall workouts.
Lambert is expected to be a key contributor for the Lobos this season, but she started out on Friday night as just another cheerleader.
“You go girl! Work it!” Lambert shouted from the bench, and a minute later Rachel Fields put the Lobos up 1-0 off the assist from Stephanie Rowe early in the 52nd minute. Milwaukee’s Laurel Ragalie scored the equalizer 29 minutes later.
Lambert, who started all 21 games as a junior, switched numbers from 15 to 19 and was vocal on the sideline, standing most of the time on top of the bench and clapping in support.
The only time she touched the ball came when she scooped it up out of bounds and tossed it to Lobos defender Roxie McFarland for a throw in.
Lambert began warming up in the 36th minute after coach Kit Vela motioned for her, but she never entered the game. She’ll get another next chance when the Lobos play No. 23 Marquette on Sunday in the finale of the Milwaukee Cup competition that also features Auburn.
“We’ve got to find our legs again after overtime, everything else, but it is what it is,” said Vela, who declined to say if Lambert would play Sunday. “We do a pretty good job of recovering and we’re a pretty good group.”
By John R. Bolton
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