LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Taylor Hubbard had a brief Lakewood Ranch scouting report to go off of with one critical detail.
One of her Tampa Wharton teammates plays club with several Mustangs, including Danielle Wilson. The senior goalkeeper is the anchor of Ranch's defense, though she has a flaw: She's undersized. Shooting high can cause problems.
In the 93rd minute, Hubbard collected a loose ball 30 yards away from the goal and fired. Her shot bounced short and kicked toward the crossbar. Wilson backpedaled and leaped. Not high enough. Hubbard's shot slipped between Wilson's right hand and the crossbar for the only goal in Wharton's 1-0 win against the Mustangs at Lakewood Ranch High School.
"It was pretty blurry," Hubbard said. "All I saw was the ball coming toward me and I was like, 'Might as well shoot.' First goal wins. I just kicked it."
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Ranch, which won Class 5A-District 8 and lost once during the regular season, bowed out in the Region 2 quarterfinals despite outshooting the Wildcats and putting one more shot on goal than Wharton. The Mustangs (15-2-1) played a dominant first half and squandered a penalty kick opportunity early in the second. They let Wharton (13-5-3) hang around long enough and the Wildcats caught the decisive bounce. Wharton advances to Tuesday's regional semifinals against Palm Harbor University, which beat Manatee on Thursday in Palm Harbor.
Ranch controlled almost all of the first half, forcing goalkeeper Caroline Delisle to make three saves in four minutes early in the first half. Lakewood Ranch put five shots on goal during the opening period and finished with eight. In total, the Mustangs took 27 shots to the Wildcats' 13.
None of Ranch's shots came during extra time.
"We had the upper hand in the beginning," head coach Guy Virgilio said. "We should have put the game away earlier. I felt that we were the better team, but unfortunately it didn't quite happen for us this way."
Lakewood Ranch's best opportunity came during the second half, when Faith Schyck drew a penalty kick in the 54th minute. At that point, the Mustangs were applying pressure, and Schyck blocked a clearing attempt by Wharton defender Jordan Vitale. The sophomore continued to charge forward and Vitale tripped her in the penalty area. Ranch sent Maddison Krstec to the spot for the kick.
Delisle lunged to her right to make the initial save and Krstec couldn't put the rebound over the keeper, either.
"We basically have Hope Solo in the net," Hubbard said.
Lakewood Ranch's offense fizzled. Although the Mustangs managed a handful more scoring opportunities during the final 25 minutes of regulation, the Wildcats logged more shots and more shots on goal.
By extra time, Ranch's midfield was fatigued and possessions became shorter. The style began to favor Wharton, rather than the deliberate Mustangs. The Wildcats got off the only two shots during the final 14 minutes, including the final one to stun Lakewood Ranch.
"The penalty kick was the turning point, when I just saw the air kind of go out of the balloon," Virgilio said. "We just felt kind of deflated after that. That's when I kind of felt that the other team kind of stepped it up more. We were chasing the ball rather than making something happen."
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 941-745-7057 or on Twitter @dbwilson2