LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch High girls soccer team has an entirely new look this season.
And, yet, its outlook stills remains the same.
With only four seniors on its roster, Lakewood has been forced to rely on its younger members to step up and take control.
And, even during a period in which six players were injured, the Lady Mustangs continued to believe they’d be contending for the district title.
So, when Lakewood captured the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A-District 11 tournament, the Lady Mustangs made the most of it.
After defeating rival Braden River 4-0 in the district semifinals, Lakewood posted its second shutout of the tournament. The Lady Mustangs blanked second-seed Venice 3-0 to capture its fourth-consecutive title and ninth district title in 10 years.
“We were struggling a little before playoffs, but something sparked in us the last two games,” senior defender Amanda Baar says. “We really want to go far not only for us, but also for our coaches this year. We have been playing with a lot of heart lately.”
In the matches leading up to the district tournament, there were times when the Lady Mustangs lacked intensity and struggled to find their rhythm.
But in the district tournament, the Lady Mustangs came out with the same swagger and determination that had landed them district titles each of the past three seasons.
In the regional semifinals, Lakewood held Braden River scoreless for the third time this season, allowing only five shots — two of which were on goal.
“I was kind of hoping that we (would) show up with that kind of attitude,” coach Guy Virgilio says. “We’ve been coming out a little bit flat and I was concerned about that. They definitely brought it on tonight. My old team is back. Hopefully we’ll keep going that way.
“I really feel that the girls want it more and you could see it,” he says. “We never lost our skill. It was more of an OK, (we’re) just going through the motions. We (just) need to bring it. If they do bring it, I like what they (are) able to accomplish.”
Lakewood sophomore Tyler Gordon scored a goal off of an assist by Chelsea Martin to give the Lady Mustangs (16-1-4) a 1-0 lead 15 minutes into the first half of the district championship.
It would be the only goal the Lady Mustangs needed, thanks to Baar and fellow defenders Juliana Guida, Tatum Young and Hannah Miller and goalkeeper Alex Latham, who notched the team’s 13th shutout and had four saves on the night.
“The team is coming together at the right time, and I hope they keep going,” Virgilio says. “Our defense has been solid all year.”
Gordon, who leads the team in goals (16) and assists (9), scored her second goal in the second half off an assist from Delaney Riggins. Riggins scored Lakewood’s final goal to preserve the victory for the Lady Mustangs.
“We’re very young,” Virgilio says. “We have four seniors and for these girls to come out with the youth that we have and just to win a championship — I think it was a great lift for our team at this point in time for sure.”
With the win, Lakewood played host to Cape Coral Ida Baker in a Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal Jan. 23. Then, in the regional semifinals Jan. 26, the winner will play the winner of the regional quarterfinal between Venice and Barron Collier.
The match marked the 13th consecutive time the Lady Mustangs have advanced to the regional tournament since Virgilio took over the program 14 years ago.
Since then, Lakewood has asserted its dominance in the sport, reaching the regional final in 2006 and the state semifinals in 2010.
“This year, like in the past, we have worked so hard to come this far, and it’s great to win districts again,” Baar says. “We have an amazing coach. He works us so hard and we all respect him so much. He has made us who we are, and we continue to have positive hard working girls on the team.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
+ ODA girls soccer season comes to an end
The Out-of-Door Academy girls soccer team saw its season come to a close with a 4-2 loss to Shorecrest Prep in the Class 1A-District 8 semifinals Jan. 17
Miller Condrack and Juliet Onufrak both scored goals for the Lady Thunder, who advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0 quarterfinal victory over Canterbury Jan. 15. Skylar Jungers, who scored 33 goals on the season, was credited with an assist.