LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Mustangs pride themselves on keeping the ball on the ground.
That, coupled with effective passing has been the strength of the Lakewood Ranch boys soccer team, since last season when the Mustangs advanced to the regional semifinals.
Now, Lakewood is hoping that same mentality and work ethic will propel them to another district title and postseason run.
“When we keep it on the ground and when we move the ball around — we’re a very strong team,” coach Vito Bavaro said. “We’re kind of keeping up the pace where we were last year, which is important.”
The Mustangs advanced one step closer to their goal last Tuesday night behind the athletic ability of senior midfielder Sam Severson. Severson scored three goals and also recorded an assist as the host Mustangs defeated Braden River 4-3 in a Class 4A-District 10 game Dec. 1.
“I think we’ve got a strong team,” Bavaro said. “We moved the ball really nice. If we can cut out some mistakes, which we normally don’t do, then we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”
It was the first time the rivals had faced each other since it was announced earlier this year the two East County squads would be moving into the same district.
“(This win)… It’s important because it’s a district game, so we always want to come out and play well in district games,” Severson said. “They’re kind of our rival, so it’s important to come out and play good and get a victory against them.”
Lakewood took control of the game early, forcing the Pirates to play defense for much of the first half. The Mustangs attempted six shots on goal in the first half while holding the Pirates to just two shots late in the period.
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard first when Seth Browning scored off an assist by Severson. Severson found the back of the net five minutes later off an assist by Alex Martin, giving Lakewood a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The Pirates responded early in the second period on an uncontested goal by Mitchell Margolis. Severson extended Lakewood’s lead to 3-1 in the 60th minute off an assist by Martin.
But Braden River wasn’t ready to go home. Glenn Mastostefano scored off an assist by Tyler McCarthy in the 63rd minute. Severson completed his hat trick four minutes later, giving the Mustangs a 4-2 advantage.
“I was just trying to work hard and trying to score the goals,” Severson said. “We try to play the ball on the ground because that’s our best strength. I got great passes and great looks, so it was just a team effort.
“This is definitely my (best game) of the season — and maybe even my high school career — because a hat trick is pretty important,” he added.
Braden River was able to find the back of the net once again in the 78th minute on a goal by Tyler Marshall, but the Pirates were unable to overcome their early deficit.
While Lakewood holds the upper hand on its rivals, the Pirates will have a chance at redemption when the two teams meet to close out the season Jan. 19.
The Mustangs will return to action at 6 p.m. tomorrow night at St. Pete Lakewood. Braden River will play host to Southeast at 6 p.m., Dec. 14.
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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