Valentin Sabella says he always asks his coaches to be the fifth kicker in the shootout round.
But until Friday afternoon, Sabella had never felt what it was like to deliver the victory-clinching goal.
Sabella, a sophomore, had barely watched the ball hit the back of the net when he raced toward the stands with his index finger raised over his lips in a shushing gesture.
He was then tackled by his MAST Academy teammates as he and the Makos celebrated a 3-2 shootout victory following a 1-1 draw in regulation over host Gulliver Prep, the two-time defending Class 2A state champions.
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“This was something unique for me,” Sabella said. “I just loved the feeling walking up and hearing the [opposing team’s] fans booing and then silencing them when the ball went in. This is huge.”
MAST (14-2-4) won its first regional playoff match and advanced to play at Ransom Everglades on Tuesday in the semifinals at 7 p.m.
Sabella’s clincher secured the victory.
Sophomore Giancarlo Arguello and John Dennis set it up with penalty scores in the shootout.
But sophomore Ryan Hernandez’s two saves in the shootout round set up Sabella’s heroics. Hernandez and senior Pablo Saud have split the goalkeeping duties this year and each has played an important role for MAST.
The performance by MAST’s youngsters and the chemistry they have shown with the seniors on the team has been a huge key to the success of the Makos this season.
“This is a young team, and it’s my first year as the head coach here,” MAST coach Gaston Rubio said. “We have six seniors that have understood their roles. We had some sophomores and freshmen that took some starting spots away from some of those seniors that had been here for two or three years, and instead of pouting about it, they understood their roles on the team and that mix is what set the tone for our season.”
MAST striker Teo Papazian gave the Makos their only lead in regulation when he scored in the 54th minute off a long lead ball downfield from Hernandez. This came just moments after Papazian was stopped on a penalty kick by Gulliver goalie Gabriel Miller.
Gulliver (12-3-2) answered In the 68th minute with the equalizer and neither side found the net for the remainder of regulation of two 10-minute overtimes. Despite taking the lead twice in the shootout round, the Raiders could not find the mark for the decisive score.
Papazian, one of the Makos’ top strikers, could not participate in the shootaround due to leg cramps. It didn’t deter MAST from victory.
“This means everything especially against a rival like Gulliver,” Rubio said. “I told the guys that nothing could take this victory away from us.”
▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Varela 2, Columbus 1 (OT): The last time Varela played on Columbus’ home turf, the Vipers were eliminated in the same regional quarterfinal round two seasons ago. That game also marked the last time they played a game without senior Giovani Chavez on the team.
Chavez, then a sophomore watching from the stands who decided to join the Vipers the following season, scored the golden goal with his left cleat broken open at the sole seven minutes into overtime to send the Vipers over the Explorers. Varela (10-5-2) will face Killian on Tuesday in the regional semifinals.
Chavez took the cross from Haitam Chahti and knew what to do with it to connect on the game-winner.
“He hit it, I timed it well, and I took a lucky first touch on my broken shoe,” said Chavez, who was on the third game of his calculated three he had left with the busted cleat he refused to replace. “They told me, ‘Buy new cleats.’ I said no, and they proved worthy [Friday].”
After Varela took the initial 1-0 lead in the 70th minute on a goal from Fernando Alvez de Olivera, Columbus (15-6-3) forced overtime with two minutes remaining in regulation on a Daniel Mayorga goal off an assist from goalkeeper Craig Lavista as the Explorers went empty net.
▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Killian 2, Miami Beach 2 (KIL 4-3 PKs): Diego Hernandez scored two goals, including one in the final seconds of regulation, and goalkeeper Matthew Vega came up with a pair of clutch penalty-kick saves as Killian’s magical run continued with an upset of Miami Beach at Tropical Park.
The Cougars (10-7-4), which won District 16-5A as the No. 4 seed and ousted top-ranked Ferguson in district semifinals, get a rematch in regional semifinals with Varela, which they beat in the district final.
Hernandez forced extra time with a goal on a rebound off his own header that just missed off the left post in stoppage time.
“You play until they finally blow the whistle and the ball bounced our way,” Killian coach Scott Bruce said. “It just showed a lot of character.
“We just keep taking down teams.”
The Hi-Tides (18-4-2) appeared they had the victory locked up when they took a 2-1 advantage in the 75th minute on a Marc Amores goal.
▪ Region 4-4A quarterfinal — Belen 6, St. Thomas Aquinas 0: If the St. Thomas boys’ soccer team wasn’t sure just how good Belen Jesuit was before it made the trip to Belen, the Raiders sure left convinced.
That’s because the Wolverines put their unbeaten record on the line at De La Cruz Stadium and delivered a thrashing to St. Thomas (9-7-3) to advance to next week’s regional semifinal.
Front and center, like he as been all season long was senior forward Francisco De la Camara who recorded a three-goal hat trick including two goals in the game’s first 10 minutes as Belen (23-0-2) built a 4-0 halftime lead and coasted in the second half.
And with the three goals, De la Camara moved his season total to 52 moving him into second place all-time in county history for goals in a season. Belen will need to keep winning because he still trails Ransom-Everlades’ Nikko Hurtado, who holds the record at 61 in the 2011/12 season.
“Our goal was to come out at them (Aquinas) hard at the start of the game and try and put a few quick goals in on them to discourage them and that’s exactly what we managed to do,” said De la Camara. “It’s great to have all the goals but right now, it’s about our team and continuing to advance.”
▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Cypress Bay 6, American 0: With its sights clearly set on a second consecutive state title and fifth in the past six years, Cypress Bay blew open a close game with five second-half goals to blitz American at Cypress Bay High School.
The win kept the Lightning unbeaten at 17-0-2, and it will now host either Western or Cooper City on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in a regional semifinal.
“We’ve pretty much been a second-half team all season long, so this game was no different tonight,” Cypress Bay coach Colin Ilgner said.
A Mateo Pieschacon goal in the first half staked the Lightning to a 1-0 lead at the half before Adrian Perez scored in the first minute of the second half to give Cypress a two goal cushion. Adrian Corrente then scored back-to-back goals within 10 minutes of each other to make it 4-0 before Juan Cubillan scored twice himself in the last 20 minutes to close things out.
▪ Region 4-2A quarterfinal — Ransom Everglades 4, Key West 0: Ransom Everglades scored twice in the opening eight minutes of the second half and surged to the home win against Key West.
Alex Stuart broke a scoreless tie in the 41st minute with a goal off a deflected ball, Michael Colonna tacked on goals in the 48th and 66th minutes, and Francisco Gonzalez capped the offensive outburst with a header in the waning seconds.
Key West goalkeeper Jacob Elomina made stellar saves on several other shots to keep the Conchs (16-6) even with the Raiders (20-4) through the first 40 minutes.
▪ Region 4-4A quarterfinals — South Broward 2, Reagan 1 (OT): Sofien Mebrek laced and paced a golden goal, giving South Broward a victory in overtime against Reagan. The Bulldogs went into the 10-minute overtime period tied 1-1, before a foul in the penalty box gave Mebrek the final word.
“We were losing 1-0 and came back,” Mebrek said. “Last game we were losing 3-1 and we won 4-3. We came back because we played with heart and that’s all that matters.”
South Broward hosts Belen Jesuit on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a Region 4-4A semifinal.
▪ Region 4-3A quarterfinal — Jackson 5, Hallandale 2: Jackson beat Hallandale to advance to the next round of the playoffs with a great second half. Jackson scored four of its five goals in the second half, as Hallandale was unable to keep up offensively.
▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Cooper City 2, Western 2 (4-3 PK’s): Host Cooper City came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Western in penalty kicks.
Western (10-4-5) had a two-goal lead 27 minutes in and had a chance to win in penalty kicks, but Cowboys goalkeeper Cameron Wachtel saved a high shot to his right to keep the game going.
After the save, Cowboys senior Nicolas Tejada nailed a shot in the bottom right corner to put Cooper City (12-5) ahead 4-3. Wildcats defender Hector Martinez hit the top right post on the next penalty kick, sending the Cowboys into the regional semifinals where they will face defending state champion Cypress Bay.