LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch High girls soccer coach Guy Virgilio likes his position.
It’s a position Virgilio wasn’t expecting when the season began, but it’s one he’s been more than willing to accept as the season continues.
With only four seniors on his varsity roster and six of his players battling injuries off and on throughout the first half of the season, Virgilio was simply hoping to put enough players on the field to compete.
Now 10 games into the season, the Lady Mustangs are a perfect 10-0 and 6-0 in Class 4A-District 11.
“It’s a great feeling,” Virgilio says. “We’ve struggled all year with having girls hurt. At the beginning of the year, we had six girls hurt; and we’ve finally gotten them all back.
“Some of the other ones who I didn’t feel were going to play are stepping in,” Virgilio says. “The freshmen are doing a good job, and it’s going to be hard for the ones who are coming back to get their positions back. That’s always a good thing when you start competing within the team for position and playing time. It’s great to have that, and hopefully we’ll keep going.”
Lakewood Ranch remained unbeaten with a 2-0 victory over rival Braden River in a district match Nov. 28.
The Lady Mustangs took a 1-0 lead three minutes into the match when sophomore midfielder Talia Falco scored off an assist from sophomore midfielder Megan Hardy.
Holding onto a 1-0 lead, Lakewood watched as Braden River gained the upper hand for the final few minutes of the first half and a good portion of the second half.
But with the pressure mounting, the Lady Mustangs took control of the game midway through the second half when sophomore forward Tyler Gordon scored off an assist from junior midfielder Lindsay Martinez.
As Gordon ran back up the field toward her teammates with her fists pumping in the air, Virgilio stood back and smiled.
“We’ve had (a few games) that there were 20 to 30 minutes when I felt like the other team had the upper hand,” Virgilio says. “I was very proud of the girls for coming back and holding their own. We finally got the momentum back and scored the other goal. And I think that’s what (won) it in the end.”
The Lady Mustangs fired off 12 shots, including seven shots on goal, while Braden River was held to just four shots, including two shots on goal. Lakewood goalkeeper Alex Latham had two saves.
The Lady Mustangs, who reached the state semifinals three years ago and the regional semifinals each of the past two seasons, know the road to a perfect regular season and their fourth consecutive district championship still has its fair share of challenges.
Lakewood has nine regular-season games left on its schedule before the district tournament, six of which are against district opponents, including Manatee Dec. 5; Venice, who is in second place behind Lakewood, Dec. 10; and Braden River Dec. 14.
“I just kind of feel like we’ve had a bull’s-eye on our back and we know they’re all gunning for us,” Virgilio says. “The girls are coming together very well as a team. They’re gelling together. I’m kind of hoping they keep going and we’ll see what happens.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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