LAKEWOOD RANCH - After three straight district championships, Lakewood Ranch High's girls soccer team might run the risk of being complacent heading into an early-round Class 5A-District 12 tournament game. Melissa Miller won't let that happen.
As a senior and co-captain, Miller tells her teammates to approach each game the same way, no matter the opponent and situation. And in case they didn't listen Monday, she showed them what she was talking about.
The midfielder scored the Mustangs' first goal, then added five assists to help Lakewood Ranch to an 8-0 victory over Bayshore.
With the win, the top-seeded Mustangs (14-5-5) advanced to the district semifinals, where they will face Punta Gorda Charlotte at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Tarpons defeated Southeast 4-2 in the first game of the night.
Miller's five assists gave her the school record for assists in one game as she passed Melissa Purdy, a family friend, who had had four in the 2000-01 season. She also set the Mustangs' single season mark for assists with 18, passing Kelly Mineart, who broke the record last year.
"Because this year we have such a young team, we have a lot of people we have to teach more than we have to prove anything," said Samford (Ala.) University-bound Miller of the Mustangs, who have 14 sophomores and freshmen on varsity. "I think the girls later on, when they are seniors, they will see that's why we were so serious about these games. I think they will understand then."
Four of Miller's assists led to Lindsay Thompson goals. Thompson also made some Mustangs history Monday, tying her own record for goals in a game with five. Her 32 goals on the season pushed her one past Jessica Eicken for the single-season scoring record.
With each goal, her teammates screamed, "Happy birthday, Lindsay" as the junior turned 17 on Monday. After the game, the girls sang her happy birthday and ate cupcakes to mark the occasion.
"In a game we aren't so much focused on the difficulty of the other team, we just try to work on passing for the next game," said Thompson, who is only one goal shy of tying Eicken for the school record with 81 career goals. "Our weakness, I think, has been putting passes together. We still need to do better, but we got it pretty much accomplished."
Despite the loss, Bayshore coach Ron Hirst knows his team took a step forward as a program. After failing to win a game for two years, the Bruins won four this season and finished 4-17-1.
"Having complete games is what mattered for us," Hirst said. "You can learn from (the Mustangs). They have a lot of players who will probably play in college, and we're starting from the ground up."
The Mustangs' other two goals were scored by Kelly Cummins and Michelle Miller, respectively.
Virgilio went to his bench early and often, but he also knows the records are important to his girls. He tries to walk a fine line between keeping them happy while not showing up the other team.
"I sure hope the other coach is not getting upset about it, but we had an opportunity, and you want to do the best, and you want to motivate these girls," Virgilio said. "I try to do whatever I can. It's not like we were showboating. The opportunities came, and we took them."
Punta Gorda Charlotte 4,
Kelly Cline put the Noles ahead in the first half, but the Tarpons fought back with the next four goals to take control.
In the second half, Cline assisted on a goal to Alecia Knight, but the Noles missed several excellent scoring chances to get back in the game.
"We had the opportunities," said Southeast coach Dave Johnston, whose daughter, Sarah, a four-year varsity starter, played her final game for the Noles. "We had a handful of chances, and we didn't execute. At this competitive level of soccer, when you don't execute, you are in trouble."
Johnston, whose team was the only one from Manatee County to beat Lakewood Ranch this year, expects the Mustangs' game with Charlotte to be a classic.
"That's going to be one of the best games of the year," Johnston said. "Hold on to your hats."
Southeast finished the season at 7-7-1.