High School Sports

Lakewood Ranch boys soccer pummels Sarasota 8-0

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Shortly after Lakewood Ranch finished its Class 4A-District 11 opener, head coach Vito Bavaro said his team was trying to knock out the cobwebs.

And while he said he'd like for his team to be more clinical, the Mustangs obliged the cobwebs request Monday by routing visiting Sarasota, 8-0.

The game was stopped with 8 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the second half due to the mercy rule.

"We're looking forward to another deep run this year, but it's one game at a time," Bavaro said. "We told the kids we just have to come out and dominate everybody we play."

Lakewood Ranch (14-5-4) earned itself another home match with the triumph. The Mustangs are the tournament's No. 2 seed and will host Venice, who dusted off Punta Gorda Charlotte 8-0, in Wednesday's semifinal at 7 p.m.

The Mustangs defeated the Indians, 6-1, last season en route to a second straight district championship and a state semifinal run.

Two players off that year's team, Jake Dube and Ben Wilson, were instrumental in Monday's whitewash of the Sailors.

The senior midfielders engineered most of the attacking play by controlling the middle of the park and distributing balls to the wings and to the forwards.

"Ben's got a great touch and Dube hustles like crazy," Bavaro said. "So when they're playing their best together, it's tough for opposing teams."

John Rivera bagged a hat trick, with his third goal coming off a Dube assist just four minutes into the second half.

Ricky Yanez added a brace, with his second tally coming off an inch-perfect through ball from Wilson.

"They struggled closing us down in the middle," said Wilson, who is originally from Yorkshire, England.

Both Rivera and Yanez are sophomores. Two more sophomores, Sam Stapleton-Jones and Tyler Puhalovich, and freshman Pablo Vargas create a bevy of scoring options up front and on the wings for Bavaro to get goals from.

It also generates lots of options for Dube and Wilson to pick from.

"We're great friends, we've played for quite a bit and we've played club together," Dube said. "We're both really technical, so we just know how to go off each other."

Sarasota tallied just one shot on goal for the match. Lakewood Ranch peppered the Sarasota goal with 30 shots, with 22 of them on the frame. The Sailors had an own goal, while the remaining Ranch scores came from Vargas and Giacomo Brissolesi.

Brissolesi's goal ended the match via the mercy rule in the 72nd minute.

"We're young up front," Bavaro said. "This is the first time we've ever been young up front. Usually you have one solid goal scorer but I have four guys that can score goals up front and our midfielders are scoring a lot of goals, too. We have the total package at this point. It's just a matter of keeping the ball out of the net, keeping ourselves healthy and finishing teams off."

ELSEWHERE -- Braden River made an early second-half goal stand up as the Pirates edged visiting Port Charlotte, 1-0, in a 4A-11 quarterfinal on Monday.

Michael Villarente assisted Mario Lopez on the game-winning goal, which came in the 42nd minute for Braden River (7-8-1). The Pirates found a 13-4 advantage in shots on goal over their namesakes to the south.

The victory sends Braden River into Wednesday's semifinal at top-seeded North Port. The Bobcats have two wins over Braden River this season by a combined 8-1 margin. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.