The current boys soccer team looks like the 2016-17 squad in more ways than one
Will 2019 be like 2017?
The Lakewood Ranch High boys soccer team is hoping that is the case.
The Mustangs reached the state championship game that season, losing 1-0 to Cypress Bay High after an early red card on one of the team’s offensive leaders, Ricky Yanez, hindered the Mustangs’ other star forward, Pablo Vargas, and his ability to attack.
The current Mustangs (8-0-0 as of Dec. 7) have a lot of similarities to that team. They are ranked No. 9 in the country by MaxPreps as of Dec. 7, and were ranked as highly as third earlier in the the season. They are expected to go deep into the playoffs, even after last season’s disappointing exit in the regional quarterfinals, because of the talent throughout the team’s position groups.
The Mustangs' offense is also led by a familiar name, Wilmer Yanez, Ricky’s brother. Yanez, who was also on the 2017 team, leads the Mustangs with 11 goals through eight games, and said he is excited by the chance to chase a state title, like 2019.
“I love it,” Yanez said. “Obviously Ricky is my brother, and Pablo is basically a brother to me as well. I want people texting him (Vargas), ‘Hey, Wilmer’s getting more goals than you.’ I love being able to help my team in that way.”
Yanez said he is a completely different player than his brother, who looked for assists before goals, while Vargas is more of a scorer. Mustangs coach Vito Bavaro said Wilmer Yanez is a sturdy player who is able to take bumps from opponents and continue on his run to the goal.
When he gets in position, there’s no secret about what he’s trying to do.
“I just shoot it at a corner and bury it,” Wilmer Yanez said.
Bavaro wants fans to know that the Mustangs are much more than Yanez, as good as he is. Senior brothers Travis and Ryan Freeman are team captains with Travis manning the midfield and Ryan the net. Seniors Alex Thompson and Josh Hays are top midfielders and junior Najii Greene-Villegas is the team’s second-leading scorer. Seniors Andrew Schagen and Garrett Zimmerman lead the defense.
As good as the Mustangs are now, Bavaro and Yanez believe they will be even better as the season progresses and the team’s on-field chemistry increases. Bavaro said the team is squandering some scoring opportunities, even though they have outscored opponents 26-7 on the season. He said once the team starts executing better, it will stop merely winning games, and start dominating them. The 2017 team outscored its opponents 31-3 through eight games, but did not carry the perfect record the current team does — it tied Venice High 1-1.
“Anyone else would be happy with how they have played, but I am not,” Bavaro said. “I know they can do better.
“They are always learning. That is what I like about these kids. They want to work hard.”
The similarities are there. Yanez and the Mustangs hope to add “reached the state title game” to that list, then differ from the 2017 team by bringing home the program’s first championship.