Taravella first-year boys’ soccer coach Mike Goodrich knows his team grinds out games, hoping to achieve the “little things properly” because they can add up to wins and losses.
During the seventh minute of overtime, senior Darwin Espinal dribbled down the left side, turned the corner and beat a St. Thomas Aquinas defender before serving a cross to junior Alex Pacelko. The ball was deep and far enough that the goalkeeper couldn’t get to it.
When junior Alex Guiteras tried to clear it out, he instead tapped it in for an own goal as the Trojans beat the Raiders 2-1 in the Region 3-5A semifinal Saturday night at Douglas High.
“As an ex-defender I’ve scored my share of those too,” Taravella coach Mike Goodrich said. “I feel for him. Soccer sometimes you just don’t get the breaks, but it was a well-played match by both teams. When we do the little things – winning balls in the air, getting back defensively, communicating, making runs for each other – then we’re successful.”
The Trojans (19-3-2) will face Boca Raton Tuesday night in the regional final. Earlier in the week, Taravella won its first regional game since 2003, the same year it captured its first and only state title.
It didn’t take long for the Trojans to take a 1-0 lead — just two minutes into the game — on sophomore John Lewis’ deflection on a cross from senior Estaban Ochoa. Ochoa had intercepted an Aquinas defender’s pass inside the box intended for a teammate out wide.
St. Thomas Aquinas (15-3-3) evened it 10 minutes later when a Taravella defender failed to clear a cross from junior Matheus Ale inside the box. Freshman Travis Brumfield capitalized by stealing the ball and scoring..
Both goalkeepers kept the game tied with diving saves. The teams combined for 14 shots on goal by halftime, yet neither could punch in the go-ahead goal despite several chances during a scoreless second half.
“It feels great,” junior Patrick Goodrich said. “At Taravella we haven’t had that winning mentality. This year we finally have it and the talent to go far with this. We believe we can go far.”
• Region 4-4A semifinal – Fort Lauderdale 4, American 3 (OT): Usually a two-goal deficit in soccer with three minutes to go in a regional playoff game spells one thing — elimination.
But nobody bothered to tell the Fort Lauderdale boys’ soccer team. Hosting American in a Region 4-4A semifinal, the Flying L’s scored twice in the last three minutes to tie the game, and then won it in the ninth minute of the first overtime.
The game-winner came when Oscar Salas fired a deep throw-in in front of the American net and Ralph Joseph caught it flush with his head and into the top left corner of the net to give his team a dramatic 4-3 victory.
Fort Lauderdale (17-7-1), already in its first-ever regional semifinal, now moves on to the regional final where the L’s will either host Sebastian River on Tuesday afternoon at their school or travel to Stuart to take on Martin County.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger goal in my life,” said Joseph, a senior and team’s leading scorer (24 goals) in the midst of being mobbed by his jubilant teammates. “Oscar [Salas] made a great throw-in and I saw I might be able to get a clean head on it and aimed top left. What a feeling. What a miracle.”