“Feed the Nik,” Lourdes girls’ soccer coach Ramiro Vengoechea kept saying on the sideline in the second half of the Bobcats’ Region 4-5A semifinal.
So it was no surprise he chose sophomore Niki Molina for the penalty kick in the 70th minute off a Palmetto handball in the box to break a late scoreless tie.
Molina went to the upper right corner and goalkeeper Morgan Lang guessed wrong as Lourdes eliminated previously unbeaten Palmetto 1-0 on Tuesday night at Columbus High.
“She’s our go-to player,” Vengoechea said. “She’s instrumental to everything that we do, and her ability in a [one-on-one] situation is deadly.”
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It’s the second consecutive season Lourdes (19-2-2) eliminated Palmetto (21-1).
“At first I was nervous and thought I was going to miss,” said Molina, who has 11 goals and 13 assists this season. “But then I just had to put the team on my back and do it for the seniors and thought, ‘I have to score.’ ”
Lourdes advances to face Cypress Bay in Weston in regional finals at 7 p.m. Friday. Cypress Bay ousted West Broward 7-0 on Tuesday.
The Bobcats and Panthers played to a scoreless tie in a first half that saw Lourdes dominate possession time and shots on goal.
Molina and the Bobcats got several chances, but Lang came up with save after save.
The Panthers attacked more in the second half and bridged the gap in scoring opportunities until the decisive penalty kick.
Lourdes and Palmetto entered Tuesday’s meeting coming off first-round wins by a combined score of 9-0.
▪ Region 4-2A Semfinal — Gulliver Prep 2, Ransom Everglades 1: Brianna Austin scored on a free kick from nearly 40 yards out in the final seconds of the first overtime to push visiting Gulliver Prep past Ransom Everglades 2-1.
Gulliver Prep (17-2-1) advanced to face Pine Crest in the Class 2A regional finals Friday.
“We practice a lot of free kicks, so I had a strong feeling I was going to make it,” Austin said. “I thank my team for trusting me to score for them. It’s an amazing feeling to get the win.”
Austin’s winning boot, which soared over goalie Victoria Sotolongo’s head into the back of the net, might not have happened had officials not stopped the clock with seven seconds left because of an injury. Tiffany McBrayer’s header in the 72nd minute had pulled Ransom (14-5-2) even.
Gulliver controlled possession and produced most of the scoring chances in the first half, but couldn’t cash in. Then in the 57th minute, Mekayla Frazier broke the scoreless tie with a soft boot into the upper left corner.
▪ Region 4-4A Semifinal — St. Thomas Aquinas 7, Archbishop McCarthy 0: After battling their way through a major scare in last week’s district final before barely winning in double overtime, there would be no such drama for the two-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas.
Hosting district rival Archbishop McCarthy at Brian Piccolo Stadium, the Raiders flexed their No. 1 Max Preps nationally-ranked muscle by drilling the outmatched Mavericks 7-0. Aquinas moved its unbeaten record to 19-0-1 and will travel north on Friday to take on Stuart South Fork in a 4A regional final with the winner advancing to the state tournament in Melbourne.
Junior captain Isabella Dorosy scored twice in the first half and Sarah Davis once to stake the Raiders to a 3-0 halftime lead before they really opened things up in the second half. That’s when they peppered McCarthy keepers Jenny Corzo and Tyra Cannady with more than 25 total shots, with four more finding the net. Two came off the head of Chloe O’Neill as she popped a pair of headers in off of two perfect crossing shots.
“Last week was definitely our wakeup call,” said Dorosy who now has 33 goals this season and will join older sister Dallas (who graduated last year) at Florida State in two years.
Mary McCormick and Micaela Caliento finished up the scoring for the Raiders with a goal apiece over the final 20 minutes.
“I think they realized they had to come out and get the job done early tonight,” said long-time St. Thomas head coach Carlos Giron, now in his 34th year.
McCarthy, which was looking for only its second-ever birth in a regional final and first since 2011, finished 18-4-1.
▪ Region 4-5A Semifinals — Cypress Bay 7, West Broward 0: West Broward wanted to halt a six-year, state-tournament losing streak to Cypress Bay, but it couldn’t stop Maria Munoz in a semifinal loss.
Munoz netted a hat trick, with three scores in the first half for the Lightning (20-1-1).
“We always take one game at a time but West Broward has always been in our area,” Munoz said. “It’s always a little rival we have between each other, because we all know each other and we are all friends. But on the field it’s a different mindset.”
The Bobcats (16-4-2) could not dirty Sofia Julien’s clean sheet and couldn’t contain Munoz or Annette Hernandez, who scored two second half goals. Cassidy Morgan netted one goal and two assists in the victory, while Mary Matamoros scored the Lightning’s fourth goal and added an assist.
▪ Region 4-1A Semifinals — Westminster Academy 4, Miami Country Day 2: Westminster Academy erased an early 2-0 deficit, defeating Miami Country Day 4-2 at home.
The tide turned when Amanda Martin broke through the Lions’ (16-1-1) defense at midfield in the 35th minute. Goalkeeper Sophia Alday came up in the box and denied the Spartans (15-8-1) from taking a 3-0 lead.
A minute later Katie Nava threw the ball in from 25-yards out, Lexi Kinney flicked the ball into the center of the box with her head, and Camryn Pagliaro drove the ball into the back of the net.
Kinsey then tied the game in the 47th minute on a penalty kick, before scoring the go-ahead on a give-and-go with Alexis Kwasnik 22 minutes into the 2nd half.
Nava closed out the scoring for the Lions.
▪ Region 4-3A Semifinals — American Heritage 4, Pines Charter 0: Going for a fourth consecutive state championship, host American Heritage beat Pines Charter for the fourth time this season.
After the win, Heritage coach Cindy Marcial yelled, “Three more games!” to her team, with the Patriots three wins away from the school’s first four-peat. Heritage won the state championship three years in a row from 2000-2002.
“Every time you play a team four times, it gets hard to get picked up to play the same team over and over again, but we really want it this year. We want to get the fourth title,” Marcial said. “It’s never been done. We want to bring history here.”
Heritage (19-1) dominated possession throughout and took the lead in the eighth minute on a goal by Emily Vasquez, her first of two on the night. Patriots captain Dejah Cason made it 2-0 in the 31st minute on a rebound after Jaguars (17-5) goalkeeper Thalia Garcia couldn’t corral a header by Mandy Kopecki.
The duo reversed roles two minutes into the second half with Kopecki powering in a rebound off a shot from Cason. Vasquez ended the scoring in the 57th minute with her second goal. University of Central Florida recruit Zandy Soree placed a perfect low cross from the right of the box to Vasquez for the easy finish from five yards out.
Heritage will face North Fort Myers in the regional finals on Friday night.
▪ Region 4-2A Semifinal — Pine Crest 1, Cardinal Gibbons 0: A penalty kick goal by Jordyn Elliott in the 48th minute advanced host Pine Crest past Cardinal Gibbons (16-3-2). The Lady Panthers (19-1-2) will travel to Gulliver for the Region 4-2A final on Friday.
"Even though it was nail-biting, we were able to get one in the back of the net," said goalkeeper Sophia Danielsen who had 12 saves.
Elliott's kick was the result of a hand ball penalty in the box by the Chiefs. She tucked the kick into the right corner for the lone score of the game. It was Elliott's 24th goal this season.
In the 67th minute, Elliott went down with an injury and was carried off the field. She will be questionable for Friday.