Ansley Melendi stood on the penalty spot with Thursday’s Class 5A-Region 2 girls soccer quarterfinal winding down.
A spot kick goal from Melendi, with roughly four minutes remaining, seemed a likely decider.
“If you shoot hard and get (it) on the ground and the ball’s wet, it’s going to go in,” Melendi said. “Hopefully.”
Standing between Melendi, a Tampa Plant High School sophomore, and a match-winning goal was Lakewood Ranch keeper Kerestyn Kesgiropoulos.
The Mustangs senior dived to her left, guessing correctly on Melendi’s placement. The ball, though, squirted just under her body.
“It was overun and it was just me not getting my left hand down in time,” Kesgiropoulos said.
Championship games, that's what happens. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't.
Lakewood Ranch girls soccer coach Guy Virgilio on losing to a late penalty
And like that, Lakewood Ranch fell 2-1, and the Mustangs’ season ended in the region quarterfinals for a second consecutive season. Plant heads to the region semifinals next Tuesday.
“None of the losses are any fun,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Guy Virgilio said.
For most of Thursday’s match, the Mustangs struggled in the attacking third. The culprit was several players getting bunched around the ball, which limited space to operate. During the second half water break, Virgilio instructed his team to change that.
It took a Plant goal to drive home the message.
Shannon Snyder launched a free kick that curled toward Kesgiropoulos with about 20 minutes remaining in the match. The ball bounced off her glove, before trickling in to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“It’s something you wish you could’ve done better,” Kesgiropoulos said. “That you look at yourself and say, ‘What exactly is it that I could’ve done?’ You look at yourself as a player, and you have to think about all the things you’ve ever done as a player. And that’s what hurts the most, because I know that I’ve played better than I did (Thursday).”
The Mustangs responded quickly.
Faith Schyck, who scored the match-winning goal in last week’s district championship, tied the game six minutes later with a one-on-one breakway, rocketing a shot to the top left corner of the net.
But the shift in momentum was short-lived. Plant drove deep into Ranch’s defense and received a penalty through a tackle in the box.
Melendi buried the chance with four minutes left, which proved the winning goal when the Mustangs couldn’t answer in the closing minutes.
“Championship games, that’s what happens,” Virgilio said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Mustangs lose five seniors, which includes Kesgiropoulos and Gi Krstec, who is committed to the University of Maryland.