Boys soccer | Lakewood Ranch's first trip to state ends with 3-0 loss to Melbourne in semifinals

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 15, 2014 

Lakewood Ranch's Martin Martinez and Ryan Sollazzo take the ball as Seminole's Andrew Goodman falls during the 2014 FHSAA 4A boys soccer championship against Seminole at Lakewood Ranch Friday night. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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MELBOURNE -- It was a spot kick Ryan Sollazzo has buried a thousand times before.

Except this time, Lakewood Ranch's senior forward rattled the penalty shot off the post, and potential momentum vanished from the Mustangs' grasp in Friday's boys soccer Class 4A state semifinal against Melbourne at Eastern Florida State College.

The Bulldogs defeated Lakewood Ranch 3-0 and will face Fleming Island, which won the other semifinal 3-2 over Delray Beach Atlantic in Saturday's championship.

"After that, we all put our heads down a little bit," Sollazzo said. "It's hard to come back from that."

Lakewood Ranch (14-8-6) trailed powerful Melbourne (23-1-1) 2-0 when a foul inside the penalty box led to Sollazzo stepping to the spot with roughly 15 minutes remaining in the match.

Melbourne keeper Caleb Glover was sent the wrong way, but Sollazzo banged the post and the ball was cleared away.

The Mustangs didn't create another chance, while the Bulldogs put away an insurance goal to end Ranch's dream season of getting the program's first-ever state semifinal berth.

"It's a game of inches," Mustangs head coach Vito Bavaro said. "Two more inches to the left, and it's a 2-1 game. Totally changes everything for us."

Aside from missing the opportunity to cut a two-goal deficit to one, another killer moment came when Melbourne scored in the 37th minute.

The late first-half tally came from midfielder Zach Stewart after the Mustangs' defense got burned on the outside and the ball was fed to the top of the box, where Stewart's shot was unleashed before the Ranch defenders could clear.

"I think if we would have scored first, we would have had the advantage," Mustangs keeper Liam Bramley said. "The team that scored first was probably going to win the game. That's how it works some of the time."

The sophomore keeper made 12 saves against the possession-oriented Bulldogs, who held more than a 2-to-1 shot advantage over the Mustangs in the 80-minute match.

Melbourne's Jamie Carlson scored twice, completing his brace in the 68th minute off a volley from Spencer Tworkowski's corner.

Ranch did have a chance in the first half to get on the board first, but Sollazzo's effort inside the box was corralled by Glover.

That chance came six minutes prior to Melbourne's momentum-grabbing goal just before halftime.

"Our game plan was simple, to get a goal early," Bavaro said. "They hadn't been scored upon. I thought if we could put a goal in early, we could kind of fluster them a little bit. And I thought their possession game would come to help us if we could score on them, because they would kill the clock for us."

But that didn't happen.

Still, though, the Mustangs entered the match realizing the difficulty of the challenge. Bavaro said his team is young at key positions and will be back.

"We knew that we were the underdogs; we had nothing to lose," Bavaro said. "We played hard. I think the kids played hard the whole game. At the end of the game, it's a game of inches and it didn't happen for us."

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