High School Sports

Prep soccer | Unexpected goal ignites Mustangs' late surge

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It was the most unexpected goal that he's ever scored.

Ricky Yanez said he couldn't believe it went in, referencing the crowd's reaction as his cue that the ball found twine.

But despite his disbelief, the ball did find the net, and it triggered a second-half barrage for Lakewood Ranch's boys soccer team in Wednesday's Class 4A-District 11 semifinal.

Consequently, the Mustangs march forward to Friday's final after blanking Venice, 4-0. And it will be a home match after Braden River upset top-seeded North Port, 2-1, in Wednesday's other semifinal.

Lakewood Ranch (15-5-5) and Braden River split the season series at 1-1.

"That first goal was really aggressive," Mustangs head coach Vito Bavaro said. "He came flying through the middle and after that, everything started clicking."

Yanez, a sophomore, is in his first season with the varsity team and said he gets butterflies before every match.

Those butterflies were met with excitement in the 51st minute following the play of senior and team co-captain Jake Dube.

One of Ranch's midfield maestros, Dube delivered a deep cross toward Tyler Puhalovich, who headed the ball across the mouth of the goal in the box.

Yanez flew in, caught it with his back-heel in mid-air and his back to goal before hearing the roar of the crowd and his teammates that the connection armed Ranch with a 1-0 lead.

It was reminiscent of famed Dutch player Johan Cruyff, who scored in similar fashion years ago in a play dubbed, "The Impossible Goal," during his club career at F.C. Barcelona.

"I never thought it was going in," Yanez said. "I was surprised. I didn't even see it go in the net. That got us pumped. We went crazy after that first goal."

Within eight minutes of that monumental goal, the Mustangs got their insurance goal when Yanez streaked into the box with a one-on-one against Venice keeper Grant Alexander.

However, Ranch's other midfieler, Ben Wilson, was also in the box and wide open along the far post. So Yanez chose the unselfish option of passing to Wilson, who tapped in his shot into an empty net for a 2-0 lead.

"Usually, I do shoot that," Yanez said. "I saw him open, so he had a better opportunity than me so I gave it to him."

Dube tallied two goals to cap the scoring, connecting on a similar play to the Yanez-to-Wilson goal in the 62nd minute. He nearly had a hat trick, but Alexander stopped his penalty kick a minute after his first goal.

Dube's brace was completed in the 71st minute when a long free kick sailed over the top of the Indians' back line and found Dube alone against Alexander, who couldn't make the save.

"They weren't paying attention to the back post, which we took the opportunity and put it in the back of the net," Yanez said.

Following Monday's quarterfinal mercy-rule shortened 8-0 blasting of Sarasota, Bavaro said his team needed to be more clinical in their finishing. Among the Mustangs eight shots on target against Venice on Wednesday, four found the net for goals.

"When we click on all cylinders, Ben (Wilson) distributes beautiful, Dube when they play them together, it's tough," Bavaro said.