Goalkeeping heroics thwart Lakewood Ranch in boys soccer region quarterfinals
LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Payton Wilson works on his quick reflexes away from the pitch with pingpong and video games such as the FIFA soccer series.
His hand-eye coordination was needed in Friday's Class 7A-Region 2 boys soccer quarterfinal as host Lakewood Ranch peppered Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch's keeper with several point-blank shots.
Each time, Wilson corralled the ball and stopped the Mustangs (14-4-4) from equalizing.
Consequently, Lakewood Ranch's season ended Friday, while the Bulls advanced to next week's regional semifinals following a 2-1 victory.
"It's just practice," Wilson said. "Just do what you can, get all the work you can in before the game and just hope you can make the saves you need to make."
He did on several occasions, including a key moment shortly after Wiregrass Ranch took a 2-1 lead.
Lakewood Ranch sophomore Pablo Vargas, who had an equalizer five minutes into the second half, was only a couple yards away from Wilson in the 63rd minute.
Vargas' chance to tie the match a second time, though, was denied as Wilson blocked the point-blank shot and the Bulls cleared the follow-up chance.
With a few minutes remaining, Ranch's other potent attacking forward, Ricky Yanez, connected on a cross in the box with a header directed on goal.
Once again, Wilson stopped it.
"It's a little scary some times," Wilson said.
Wiregrass Ranch (21-2-3) reached last year's Class 4A state semifinals behind the goalkeeping of John Pease.
Pease, a junior, was banged up most of this season with an injured back and hip flexor. Wilson was thrust into the starting role.
"I've just always been ready," Wilson said. "I've always known that if he gets hurt, I'm going into the game. I'm next one up."
Pease has regained his health, which leaves head coach David Wilson with the difficult choice of who to start each match. With the way his son, Payton, played Friday with various key saves during Lakewood Ranch's second-half attacking pressure, the decision to start Payton is justified.
"He hasn't done anything, any reason not to use him," David Wilson said.
Wiregrass Ranch jumped out to a 1-0 lead through Chris Faddoul's goal early in the first half.
Ranch made it 1-1 in the 45th minute when Vargas created a little separation and slid into his shot to hook it past Wilson.
Wiregrass Ranch zapped the Mustangs' momentum with Devi Ndrita's part-skill, part-good fortune play in the 60th minute.
Ndrita tried dribbling past his defensive markers, but lost possession briefly as the ball went forward toward the Mustangs. However, the ball bounced off the defense and back into Ndrita's path, who suddenly became one on one with Ranch keeper Liam Bramley.
"It's all a matter of inches," said Lakewood Ranch head coach Vito Bavaro about Ndrita's match winner. "State championships come down to one bad bounce, one miss. At this point, all the games are going to be by one goal."
The Mustangs tried equalizing by pushing everyone up, but Wilson denied those late efforts. His counterpart, Bramley, had 16 saves in a stout effort, too. While Bavaro said losing him and four other seniors is sad, the future looks good.
"The bulk of the team is coming back and we have some young kids coming up," Bavaro said.