It took nearly 27 minutes for the Lakewood Ranch High School girls soccer team to break through against Sarasota on Thursday night.
It took less than two minutes for their advantage to double.
Hajar Benjoud’s goals in the 27th and 29th minutes helped the Mustangs shake off the slow start and roll past the Sailors 8-0 in the Class 5A-District 8 semifinals. With the victory, Lakewood Ranch (15-2-2) advances to play host to Riverview in the district final on Friday. The match kicks off at 7 p.m.
The victory also assures the Mustangs will play in regionals next week.
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“(Sarasota) decided to play a little more defensive-minded game, so they packed everybody in the middle,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Guy Virgilio said.
The Mustangs besieged the Sailors (0-18-2) throughout the early portion of the match, but to no avail. Despite holding Sarasota without a shot on the night, Lakewood Ranch struggled to create a goal until Benjoud’s long left-footed drive carried into the net off the arm of Sarasota goalkeeper Victoria Martin.
“We got a little too anxious in the first half,” Virgilio said. “We had plenty of shots; we just couldn’t put them on target.”
Benjoud’s second goal came from much closer. A volley from the right side settled on the ground between a pair Sailors inside the 6-yard box, and Benjoud used her strength to wedge herself between the defenders before guiding the ball inside the right post for a 2-0 lead that held until halftime.
“In the moment, she took a run, and there it was,” Virgilio said. “As a forward that is what you need to do. You have to be physical. You have to be ready at all times because you never know when the ball is going to ricochet and bounce your way.”
Faith Schyck extended the Mustangs’ lead less than three minutes into the second half. Schyck maneuvered the ball down the middle of the box before blasting a shot from short range.
Madison Mirandilla struck in the 55th minute and Schyck collected her second score by heading home a corner kick from Maria Gonzalez. Gonzalez added a goal of her own sandwiched between a pair of scores by Gi Krstec.