LAKEWOOD RANCH — It’s been on their minds since practice officially began some four months ago.
Every drill they’ve mastered, tough practiced they’ve endured and physical game they’ve played has led the Lady Mustangs to this point — the district championship game.
Since day one, the Lakewood Ranch High girls soccer team has been focused solely on winning the district title. The Lady Mustangs breezed through the regular season, posting a 14-0-2 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 record in Class 4A-District 10; and on Jan. 23, the top-seeded Lady Mustangs shut out visiting Palmetto 4-0 to capture the Class 4A-District 10 title.
Lakewood advanced to the district title game after defeating Seminole Osceola 1-0 in the district semifinals Jan. 22.
The Lady Mustangs controlled possession throughout the game, firing off 30 shots, but no matter where Lakewood placed the ball, Lady Warriors goalkeeper Brittany Bennett found a way to be there.
It wasn’t until the 73rd minute of regulation that the Lady Mustangs broke through with the lone goal of the night. Defender Rachel Wojcicki connected with freshman forward Sarah Wolfe, who crossed toward Osceola’s net.
Reserve midfielder Taylor “Jo” Salmon and Bennett collided at the same time Bennett caught the ball, sending the ball into the back of the net.
“I was honestly kind of intimidated by the goalie because she was saving everything,” Salmon said. “But coach Guy always says get a head ball, so I thought ‘OK, I’m just going to jump up,’ and when I was on the ground, I looked up and it was in the left corner. I started crying I was so happy.”
With the championship win, Lakewood improves to 16-0-2 and will play host to District 9 runner-up Tampa Robinson at 7 p.m. tonight.
“We accomplished our first goal — our first goal of the year was to win district,” Lakewood coach Guy Virgilio said. “Now our second goal is to go a little further than we did a couple years ago, which was the regional finals.”
Against Palmetto, junior forward Sarah Miller put the Lady Mustangs on the scoreboard in the 25th minute of regulation, scoring off an assist from defender Rachel Wojcicki. Miller’s header sailed past Palmetto goalkeeper Paige McFarland.
Three minutes later, senior midfielder and co-captain Kaitlyn Kerrigan’s corner kick connected with midfielder Aubrey Riggins, who found the back of the net to give Lakewood a 2-0 advantage.
Kerrigan continued the Lady Mustangs’ scoring attack in the 39th minute of regulation when she fired a 30-yard free kick into the back of the net, giving the Lady Mustangs a 3-0 halftime lead.
Junior midfielder Kaitlyn Wolfe scored Lakewood’s final goal in the 68th minute of regulation off a blocked shot by Riggins.
Lakewood recorded 27 shots while keeping Palmetto out of the backfield for the vast majority of the game.
The Lady Tigers had a few chances throughout the game, but every time the ball squeaked past a Lakewood defender, goalkeeper Katherine Somodi was able to charge up from the net and retrieve the ball.
“Yesterday (in the semifinals), it was kind of like we haven’t played in a while, and it was our first district game, so it was kind of nerve-wracking,” Miller said. “Today (in the final), we just fixed things from yesterday, so we knew what we had to do and we got it done.”
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