There has been one constant in Connor Lambe’s life: soccer.
He has been playing the sport since he was 6 and he has been actively watching it well before that. As a kid, Lambe recalled spending time in his father’s pub, Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant located in downtown Santa Barbara, where his love for the sport grew.
“I’d always spend time there watching games on the big screen so I have always been around it and I kind of just fell in love with how passionate people are about it,” Lambe said.
When he first started playing soccer, Lambe found himself on the field, but since he started playing club, he’s been between the goalposts ever since.
As a kid, one of the things making him better each and every day was the fact that he had an older brother.
His brother, Owen Lambe, a former Don, is a forward and plays soccer at Cal State Fullerton.
Conner said the two would push each other to great lengths whenever they could.
“He’s always been a forward and I have been a goalie so we bought and set up a goal in our house and he’s always been shooting on me,” Lambe said.
From there, Lambe continued his progression in club soccer and when the time came for him to chose a high school, he said it was a no-brainer.
“I’m from the San Marcos district, but it was always going to be Santa Barbara,” Lambe said.
The Santa Barbara boys soccer team has been known to produce a lot of winning under head coach Todd Heil.
Now in his 24th season at Santa Barbara, Heil has accumulated more than 400 wins and has guided the Dons to three CIF-Southern Section titles, taken them to five CIF-SS finals, and won a CIF State Regional championship.
His most recent title came in 2018, a team that Lambe was also on. Just a sophomore, Lambe was not the starting keeper for the Dons just yet.
Between the posts was goalie Ben Roach, who is now better known as UC Santa Barbara’s star keeper. In the CIF final, Roach made the game-winning stop to deliver the Dons a title.
“Training with Ben helped me more than a lot of people know. The best way to learn is by seeing it right in front of you and he just taught me how to train intensely and how to be loud,” Lambe said.
The next year, Lambe said he was more than ready to step into the spotlight.
“Even when I wasn’t playing I would get so excited, so I knew I was ready,” Lambe said.
His play followed his confidence, as with his help Santa Barbara had another successful season.
The Dons finished 16-6, won another league title, its fourth straight, and made it to the CIF Div. 1 playoffs.
Lambe collected 11 clean sheets throughout the year and allowed more than one goal just three times.
“I never tried to follow what Ben did, that would be a hard thing to do. But I learned from him and added those things to my game and that helped me a lot last year to have success,” Lambe said.
This season, Lambe has picked up right where he has left off. The senior has totaled seven clean sheets in 13 starts as Santa Barbara is hot with an 11-1-2 overall mark.
For Lambe, he is just thankful to be apart of such a successful program with a rich tradition of quality soccer.
“It’s something I’m not taking for granted. Having such a good coaching staff, I see how other teams are run and I am just happy with where I am. I think we have a great program here and a great set a set of boys and a great coaching staff so I’m really happy with it,” Lambe said.
The one game the senior did not start this year was against the top team in Calfornia, San Clemente, in the championship of the South Torrance Tournament. Lambe had to sit because he picked up a red card in the semifinals.
The Dons lost 2-1 and it remains their only loss this season.
“I came out of my box and misjudged this ball and I thought I could clear and instead I hit this kid. I felt like I let down my team but I thought Cesar (Gregorio, backup goalie) did great and next time I think we can beat them. I’d love to play them,” Lambe said.
Lambe never looks too far ahead, however. The senior said the team lays out goals every year with Heil and never once has CIF title been on there. The reason is that it is too far ahead.
Instead, Lambe is currently focused on what he could control: his passion for the sport.
“If things don’t go the way we want, whether it be Channel League or the postseason, I just want to look back and be able to say we had a lot of fun and played as best we could,” Lambe said.
“That being said, we are a great team and I believe in our abilities to do great things this year.”
Lambe carries that same attitude in the recruiting process. While most players have already decided where they are continuing their careers, Lambe is taking the process much slower.
“I have been invited to train with a few schools and I plan on visiting others but that will start after soccer season’s done. I am in no rush to make any decision, I think good things will be coming soon,” Lambe said.
Sometimes, the sports we love choose us instead of the other way around. Soccer was always around Lambe which, in turn, developed his passion.
However, Lambe thinks no matter what he would’ve always been a soccer junkie.
“No other sport can make me feel that way. Making a big save or seeing the big goal, nothing can replace those moments.”