Most of the Lakewood Ranch High School boys soccer team’s starters are defined and set in stone this season.
For Ryan Freeman and Josh Lavieri, their roles were different. They often rotated goalkeeping duties throughout the regular season with one starting one match and the other occupying the net the next time.
“Him and Josh are equally as good in goal,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Vito Bavaro said. “I feel comfortable with either one of them.”
Then Lavieri hurt his lower back a couple of weeks before the postseason began. So Bavaro penciled Freeman, a sophomore, into the starting lineup, while Lavieri healed.
With how hot the Mustangs got — fueled by Freeman making some huge point-blank saves in the last two victories — Bavaro stuck with the sophomore keeper.
Lavieri, though, accepted the change.
“Obviously, I want to play (but) if there’s a 100-percent goalie and I’m at 75 percent ... I understand where he’s coming from ... and if I was a coach, I’d do the same thing,” Lavieri said.
(Ryan) and Josh are equally as good in goal. I feel comfortable with either one of them.
Lakewood Ranch boys soccer head coach Vito Bavaro on goalkeepers Ryan Freeman and Josh Lavieri
The two keepers are part of the first Lakewood Ranch High soccer team to play for a state championship. The Mustangs (20-2-1) face Weston Cypress Bay at 4 p.m. on Saturday at DeLand’s Spec Martin Stadium, home of Stetson University football, in the Class 5A title game.
“It’s a good amount of pressure, but I think the seniors do have faith in me,” Freeman said.
The senior-laden club that will match up with Cypress Bay features eight starters with two sophomores and junior forward Pablo Vargas, who leads the team with 22 goals, including the state semifinal decider. Freeman is one of the two sophomores alongside Anthony Hroncich, who transferred to Lakewood Ranch from Cardinal Mooney.
Hroncich, a midfield playmaker, connected with Tyler Puhalovich on Lakewood Ranch’s first goal of the 4-3 victory over Sanford Seminole in last Friday’s 5A state semifinal.
But the Mustangs aren’t just an attacking team. They possess a defense, with solid goalkeeping, that’s stopped the opposition during the playoffs. The Mustangs didn’t concede a goal in two district victories, while keeping another clean sheet in the regional final victory against Plant City. And part of the latter was due to Freeman’s play. His reaction time stopped several chances in the last two wins.
Aiding that was playing alongside his twin brother, Travis, who is a midfielder that comes off the bench.
“It’s good for practice growing up,” Ryan Freeman said. “Playing against each other, you always had somebody to go one-on-one against and try to better yourself with.”
Another aspect to the stout keeping play is having good communication. That means Freeman is constantly chatting with his back four, which comprises co-captains Nate Ellis and Vincent Archibald, Max Geraci and Daniel Rocco.
The quartet are seniors, with Rocco flying into the attack as a left wingback and tracks back to cover the center back pairing of Ellis and Archibald.
With Archibald, there’s no college soccer future because he possesses a 4.8 grade point average and said he plans on going to college for academics. So that means Saturday’s title game is his last chance at soccer glory outside of club season.
“The biggest challenge, for me, defending is making sure that the whole defense is in the right position and making sure I’m in the right position,” Archibald said. “Because if our position is just a little bit off, they can score easily.”
If you go
- What: Class 5A state championship
- Who: Weston Cypress Bay vs. Lakewood Ranch
- Where: Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand
- Cost: $9 admission, parking is TBD
- On air: Spectrum