After reaching the championship game last season, the Lakewood Ranch High Mustangs were set to make another run, or so they thought.
Instead, a regional quarterfinal matchup with Wiregrass Ranch High (24-5-1), ranked 89th nationally by MaxPreps, proved to be their downfall. Lakewood Ranch lost 2-1, sending seniors like star forward Pablo Vargas home earlier than expected.
The Mustangs (15-2-4), ranked 26th nationally themselves, could not get anything done offensively in the first half, allowing Wiregrass Ranch to dominate possession. They went into halftime down 1-0, and though they played more like themselves in the second half, tying the game on an early goal from junior Travis Freeman, a late goal from the Bulls proved to be the difference.
Junior Ryan Freeman made 11 saves in net.
"Two good teams," Lakewood Ranch coach Vito Bavaro said. "The last three years, it's been 2-1, either they won or three won. It's always fun to play against a well-coached team. I wish them a lot of luck.
We came out flat. All year we started off slow. Going into this week our mindset was not 100% where it needed to be. You can't come out slow against a good team."
Bavaro said he's proud of this team for winning the district championship for the sixth year in a row, and is excited about the pieces the team brings back next season, including the Freeman brothers, junior Wilmer Yanez, midfielder Alex Thompson and a strong defense.