LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Vito Bavaro is going through an identity crisis.
The head coach of the Lakewood Ranch boys soccer team, Bavaro has felt more like a Red Cross administrator the past couple of months.
"Injuries, injuries. I've never had so many since I started coaching here (eight years ago)," Bavaro said. "We've had eight guys miss games because of injuries. It's been the most grueling season since I've been here."
There is a silver lining to Bavaro's dilemma. A lot of backups got playing time, and the team has been rolling since he got everybody healthy, including goalie Liam Bramley.
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The Mustangs won their district tournament last week despite being the fourth seed.
They began region tournament play with a 3-0 victory over visiting Fort Myers (10-10-5) on Thursday night in a Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal.
Bavaro wants everyone to know his 12-6-6 Mustangs are not a Cinderella team.
"We got healthy and got everybody back," Bavaro said. "Now we've got the right guys in the right position. Once we switched Reese Riggins (to the back) and Bobby Phillips (to midfield) we have been playing awesome."
Ryan Sollazzo got the Mustangs' first goal, and Ben Wilson added another to give Lakewood Ranch a 2-0 halftime lead. Felipe Dangond got the last goal with an assist from Sollazzo.
Helping spark the defense
has been Bramley, who missed the first half of the season with a knee injury. Since his return, the Mustangs have lost only one match.
"We are the Cinderella team because of the numbers, but we are more of the Red Cross team," Bavaro said. "... Since Liam came back after Christmas we've been deadly."
Bavaro has won three district titles and been in regions seven times. The Mustangs have also showed a knack for coming back. In the district championship match at North Port they were down 2-0 before rallying to beat the Bobcats 3-2.
Bramley also missed a good portion of last season with an injury to his other knee.
"I am healthy now and hope to continue winning. It was really hard sitting out those games," Bramley said. "I dislocated my left knee cap this year and my right one last year. I knew it would be tough winning the district as the fourth seed, but I felt we could do it. We are playing real well now."
Lakewood Ranch will be home Tuesday for its semifinal match against North Port. The Bobcats defeated Naples Gulf Coast in double overtime in their region quarterfinal.