Semifinals set for area girls soccer teams

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 28, 2014 

BRADENTON -- The Lakewood Ranch girls soccer team has found a new formula for success:

Seven equals 0.

Translation: The Mustangs have allowed just seven goals this season and haven't lost once. They'll try their equation out again 7 p.m. Tuesday night when they host Fort Myers Riverdale in a Class 4A-Region 3 semifinal.

The winner meets either Seminole Osceola or Seminole on 7 p.m. Friday in the Region 3 championship match.

"If we score one goal," said coach Guy Virgilio, whose Mustangs have posted 15 shutouts and are 21-0-1 on the season, "I feel very comfortable."

Virgilio said that earlier this month when Lakewood Ranch blanked rival Braden River to win its fifth consecutive district title and 11th in Virgilio's 14 years piloting the Mustangs.

Last Thursday, however, they made Virgilio look like a prophet, beating Naples Gulf Coast 1-0 in a quarterfinal.

That sets up Tuesday's match with the Raiders (19-2-7), who defeated Braden River 2-1 in Thursday's quarterfinal.

While winning district titles has become nearly an annual occurrence for the Mustangs, the girls at Manatee are hoping to lengthen their finest season in 15 years Tuesday when the Hurricanes head to Palm Harbor University on 7 p.m. Tuesday for a Class 5A-Region 2 semifinal.

Manatee (15-4-2) won its first district title since 1999 and accomplished another feat last Thursday with a 3-1 win over Tampa Plant, the program's first region win since '99, when the Hurricanes beat Melbourne in a Class 6A regional semifinal.

"We feel like we made history tonight," coach George Ameres said following the victory over the Panthers, "and we started a new tradition here."

Manatee has allowed one goal in three postseason games, outscoring opponents 16-1 during that span.

Palm Harbor University (15-0-5), also nicknamed the Hurricanes, is a tradition-rich program that has won five girls state soccer titles. Only Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and Delray Beach American Heritage have won more.

PHU defeated St. Petersburg 3-1 in last week's regional quarterfinals.

"I hear that they're a phenomenal team," Ameres said Thursday. "At this point, these are anybody's games. It's who comes out, who's focused and who's ready to play, and anybody can win at this point in time."

The winner advances to Friday's Region 2 final against either Lakeland George Jenkins or Lithia Newsome.

In Class 3A-Region 3, Cardinal Mooney hosts Fort Myers Bishop Verot in a 7 p.m. semifinal, with the winner meeting either Tampa Holy Names or Tampa Prep on Friday.

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