LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch girls soccer team experienced an offensive outage in the waning minutes of a scoreless Class 4A-Region 3 final against Seminole on Saturday.
Senior forward Delaney Riggins moved gingerly on a sore left ankle after a hard fall in the first half.
Freshman midfielder Sophia Falco sat on the sidelines, the result of a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behavior.
The Mustangs had just two shots after halftime.
It appeared defensive-minded Lakewood Ranch would be forced into extra time to earn another trip to the state final four.
Then one good pass changed everything.
Midfielder Maria Miller sprung a suddenly spry Riggins with a looping lead pass, and Riggins directed the ball past diving Warhawks goalkeeper Bria Riancho into the right corner of the net with 5 minutes, 31 seconds remaining to give the Mustangs a 1-0 victory and a second consecutive region championship.
"One good ball, that's all we need," Lakewood Ranch head coach Guy Virgilio said. "It certainly went our way.
"I just like what these girls have been able to do. When it comes to adversity, it seems like they find a little bit more to go to. That's what we needed today. We definitely needed a little bit more. They were pressuring us."
Riggins, a captain who shares Lakewood Ranch's scoring load with Sophia and Talia Falco, has come up big for the Mustangs in the postseason. She scored the lone goal in a victory over Naples Gulf Coast in the region quarterfinal and recorded both goals in a 2-0 victory over Fort Myers Riverdale in the region semifinal.
"Maria played a perfect ball to me. ... I just dribbled it and shot it in the corner and it went in," Riggins said. I was nervous because I didn't know what to do with the ball, but I just kept dribbling and the keeper came out at me."
Lakewood Ranch (23-0-1) earned a rematch with state tournament host Melbourne in the Class 4A state semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7. The Bulldogs defeated the Mustangs 2-0 last year in Lakewood Ranch's second trip to the state tournament.
The Mustangs recorded their 18th shutout of the season, thanks to a solid defense and the play of goalkeeper Alex Latham, who recorded four saves.
Seminole (23-5-2) outshot Lakewood Ranch 11-8. Both teams had four shots on goal.
After the Mustangs failed to score when they controlled the ball early in the first half, the two teams played an even match.
"The first 15 minutes or so, we were on our heels a little bit," Warhawks coach Gary Kolb said. "And then after that, we made some adjustments, and I thought we played right with them or even a little better most of the time, especially the second half. But they're a great team. They're sound as far as discipline. We made one mistake, and that's what cost us."
Meanwhile, the Mustangs march on. They tied Braden River in their first match of the season and have been perfect since.
This long postseason run has surprised even their coach. Lakewood Ranch lost leading scorers Tyler Gordon and Angelica Rego as well as solid senior from last year's squad.
"I thought it was going to be more of a rebuilding year," Virgilio said. "But some of the girls we put pressure on and that we were relying on came through. ... We had the defense. It was just a matter of we needed a couple more. We got them."