The Ferguson girls’ soccer team reached the regional finals for the first time in school history Tuesday night, and they did it with the considerable help of five freshmen.
Brianna Austin, who was in middle school last year, scored with 10:31 left in the match to lead Ferguson past previously unbeaten Lourdes 1-0 at Columbus.
The assist was provided by Theresa Brimo, who came off the bench to spring Austin. The shutout was credited to Savannah Ward, and two other ninth-graders — Nicole Bovo and Tatiana Jimenez — started.
“The freshmen stepped up tremendously,” Ferguson Coach Richard Lopez said in an understatement.
The Falcons (20-2-2) advanced to Friday’s Class 5A regional final against 12-time state champ St. Thomas Aquinas, which won its most recent title in 2012. Aquinas beat Cypress Bay 4-0.
Then again, Ferguson on Tuesday knocked off a Lourdes team that went to the 2013 state final and finished this season with an impressive 21-1-3 record under first-year coach Ramiro Vengoechea.
On the winning goal, Brimo made a one-touch pass to Austin, who booted a low shot just inside the far post.
“When I passed the ball,” Brimo said, “I knew for sure we were going to score.”
The shot beat Lourdes senior star Jenny Herold, who had 21 shutouts last season and made first-team All-Dade — ending her prep career.
“This is unbelievable,” Ward said. “I never thought I would get this opportunity.”
• Region 2A Semifinal: MAST 3, Gulliver 3 (MAST won 4-2 in penalty kicks): MAST Academy can’t compare its history in girls’ soccer to that of perennial state contender Gulliver Prep.
But the Makos scored a major victory continuing what has been a historic season that they hope builds a rich tradition for their school in the sport.
Haley Zidik’s penalty shot in the shootout secured MAST a 4-2 victory in penalty kicks over defending Class 2A state runner-up Gulliver following a 3-3 regulation tie in a Region 4-2A semifinal at the Makos’ home field.
MAST (19-2-4) advances to its first regional final where it will either travel to face Delray Beach American Heritage or host North Palm Beach Benjamin Friday at 7 p.m.
“I knew in the second half we just had to calm down and play our game,” Zidik said. “No matter what happens, we knew we’d had an outstanding senior season.
MAST Academy, which has won its first two regional playoff matches this postseason, played the match on its home field, which was completed in August with help from Key Biscayne. The Makos dealt Gulliver (16-1-2) its only loss of the season and earliest playoff exit since a regional semifinal loss in 2007.
“I’m just so happy for my seniors especially because this year has been great for them,” said MAST coach Ossie Morales, whose team has scored 110 goals this season.
Zidik made three big defensive plays in the second half to give MAST a chance to rally from a 3-2 deficit late.
Gulliver’s go-ahead score was aided by a mistake by MAST goalkeeper Raquel Perez when she bobbled a corner kick she should have handled and let the ball land inside the goal line.
Perez got a second chance, however, in the shootout round.
She blocked two Gulliver penalty kicks including the one that set up Zidik’s game-winner moments after Kayla Pineda gave MAST a 3-2 lead in the shootout round.
“I’m so glad that I didn’t give up because it was frustrating when I let that goal in,” Perez said. “I just made sure [in the shootout] I stared each shooter down and read by their body what side they were going to shoot toward.”
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ
• Region 4A Semifinal: Pembroke Pines Charter 4, Miami Springs 0: Ever since last week, the Miami Springs girls’ soccer team heard about “how good Pembroke Pines Charter was” and what a big challenge they had in front of them.
The Golden Hawks traveled to Broward County and got a first hand account of what exactly everyone was talking about as Pines Charter dominated from the opening whistle on its home field to an easy 4-0 win in a Region 4-4A semifinal contest.
The win advances the Jaguars (18-5-1), making only their third appearance in a regional round, to their first-ever regional final where they will travel north to take on Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer on Friday with a berth in the state final four in Melbourne on the line.
“No doubt about it, we just got beat by a better team tonight,” said Springs coach William Drew whose team finished 21-3-1 and will miss the regional final for only the second time in the last 10 years. “Their speed, ball-handling, everything about them was impressive. They simply don’t have any weaknesses and I expect them to keep playing for awhile.”
Drew could only watch as Pines Charter came out and immediately established it’s superior speed and ball-handling skills as the Jaguars completely dominated the first half.
They scored their first goal just seven minutes into the game when Samantha Toribio took a centering pass from Courtney Zaher in front of the net and knocked it past Springs keeper Brianna Gomez.
Pines Charter never found another gear but full throttle as Amy Etchechurry scored from a severe right angle in the 21st minute to make it 2-0 and Rachel Lorenzo knocked one home five minutes before halftime to make it 3-0 and pretty much end the issue.
“We really didn’t do a good job of marking in the middle, and kind of did a little too much ball-watching early on, and they made us pay for it,” said Drew. “You can’t do that against a good team and that’s definitely a good team.”