LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch High girls soccer team wasn’t about to make excuses.
The Lady Mustangs did everything they could.
It just wasn’t their night.
After reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2010, Lakewood saw its season come to an end with a 2-0 loss to Melbourne in the Class 4A state semifinals Feb. 1.
“We definitely got beat by a better team that day,” coach Guy Virgilio says. “They were very precise with their passes. We could tell from the beginning that we were going to have our hands full, but we didn’t give up.”
The Lady Mustangs’ (19-2-4) state semifinal appearance got off to a slow start after the Florida High School Athletic Association failed to assign officials to the match. Both coaches agreed they didn’t want to use local referees.
It wasn’t until about 75 minutes after the original start time that Lakewood finally took the field.
Although the delay was unwelcome, the Lady Mustangs tried not to let it bring them down.
“It did impact the girls, but it impacted the other girls, too,” Virgilio says. “The game was too important for us to dwell on that.”
Melbourne’s Kiera McCarthy scored two goals in the first 20 minutes of the match to secure the victory for the Bulldogs (24-0-1).
The Lady Mustangs attempted four shots while the Bulldogs fired off 15 shots. Lakewood goalkeeper Alex Latham, who only allowed 14 goals all season, was credited with seven saves.
“I’m very proud of the girls, but, unfortunately, as a coach you hate to see something like that,” Virgilio says. “They fought and never gave up. (Melbourne) definitely exploited our weaknesses and capitalized.
“What we normally do to other teams, they were doing to us,” Virgilio says. “We tried to shut them down, but they were moving the ball very fast.”
Lakewood advanced to the state semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Plant City, in the Class 4A-Region 3 finals Jan. 29. Angelica Rego scored the Lady Mustangs’ lone goal off a cross from defender Tatum Young.
The Lady Mustangs lose four seniors from this year’s squad, including defenseman Amanda Baar, midfielders Chelsea Martin and Aubrey Riggins and forward Taylor Young.
But, with Lakewood’s leading scorers Tyler Gordon (17 goals) and Rego (15 goals) returning next season along with defenders Tatum Young and Hannah Miller, the future looks bright for the Lady Mustangs.
“We’re very young,” Virgilio says. “For a while there we weren’t playing that well, but we put it together for the finals. I knew these girls could do it. I can honestly say it was just a little bit too much for us. But we’ll regroup and try again next year.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].