Seeing a sports team off to the state tournament is becoming more common than fire drills at Lakewood Ranch High School.
Another Mustangs squad will depart the school for a state semifinal when the girls soccer team heads to Melbourne at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
In the fall, Lakewood Ranch sent the volleyball, boys and girls cross country teams and boys golf teams to state as well as several boys and girls swimmers. The golfers won their second consecutive championship.
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"What's there not to be excited about?" Lakewood Ranch girls soccer head coach Guy Virgilio said of his team's second state tournament trip. "It's good for Lakewood Ranch, it's good for the area."
The Mustangs (19-1-4) will meet Melbourne (23-0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 4A state semifinal. Orange Park Fleming Island meets Lakeland George Jenkins on Friday in Lakeland in the other
semifinal. The winners will square off for the state title at 1:05 p.m. Feb. 9 in Melbourne.
Lakewood Ranch has an impressive tradition, having won 10 district titles in the 13 years of the program. The Mustangs fell to St. Johns Bartram Trail on penalty kicks in a 2010 state semifinal.
Melbourne boasts an even better history. The Bulldogs have advanced to the region final nine straight times and won state titles in 2009 and 2010.
"All I've found out so far is they're very big in size and very fast," Virgilio said of the Bulldogs. "I'm sure they're good. I'm sure they didn't get there by accident."
Though the seniors on this year's team were freshmen, only Aubrey Riggins, who has missed this season after knee surgery, started the last time Lakewood Ranch advanced to state.
Virgilio said the Mustangs are leaving the school a bit early Friday so they have time to get accustomed to Melbourne's artificial turf before the match. Lakewood Ranch has yet to play on artificial turf this season.
The Mustangs have their defense to thank for this season's long tournament. The unit, led by senior defender Amanda Baar and junior goalkeeper Alex Latham, have recorded 14 shutouts and surrendered just one goal in three region tournament victories.
Lakewood Ranch defeated Venice and Plant City by 1-0 scores in its past two games.
Sophomore Tyler Gordon leads the Mustangs in scoring with 17 goals, followed by junior Angelica Rego (15). Those two players rank first and second in assists as well.
"I'm very confident in the defense," Virgilio said. "We're kind of hoping to generate some offense on the outside and make something happen."