Even in the toughest of matches, Belen Jesuit’s soccer team trusts its offensive prowess will help it earn victory.
Tied at halftime in a battle of unbeaten teams, the Wolverines broke through for a pair of goals by their two top scorers in the second half to secure a 3-1 win over South Broward in a Region 4-4A semifinal at the Bulldogs home field.
Belen Jesuit (24-0-2), ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today, advanced to the regional finals for the second consecutive season and will host Stuart South Fork on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
South Broward (14-1-3) suffered its first loss of the season after advancing to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history.
Belen will attempt to reach the state final four for the first time since 2011.
“We’ve had great execution within our offensive scheme, we were able to make some adjustments late in the game and give ourselves a comfortable lead,” Belen coach Tanger Mendonca said. “The second half was more of a true indication of what this team can do.”
What Belen can do about as well as any high school team in the country this season is score goals and do so in bunches.
Counting Tuesday’s three scores, the Wolverines have scored 109 goals for the season.
But in the first half, a physical contest with South Broward kept the game close as the teams were even at 1 by the break.
Senior Francisco de la Camara added to an already stellar season by scoring the go-ahead goal early in the second half to break the first-half stalemate. The goal was his 53rd tally of the season, which already ranked second all-time for a single season by a Miami-Dade County player.
De la Camara is eight goals short of the record 61 goals scored by former Ransom Everglades standout Nico Hurtado during the 2011-12 season.
“Our whole strategy up front with our forwards and midfielders opens up a lot of space up front and has facilitated Frankie in many games to capitalize on scoring chances as he knows how to so well,” Mendonca said.
Following de la Camara’s goal, senior Tavish Rice put the match out of reach late in the second half. Rice, who is also Belen’s kicker on the football team and earned first team All-Dade honors this past season, has formed a potent scoring duo with de la Camara this season.
Rice will sign Wednesday to play football at Princeton University.
“We have a really strong brotherhood on this team from freshmen to seniors and we all feel equal on this team,” Rice said. “We’re extremely focused on our goal of winning a state title.”
Mendonca also credited Juan Felipe Pereira, who scored Belen’s first goal for solid play in the midfield.
The Wolverines have also had tremendous depth in the defensive backfield with as many as seven defenders rotating in, according to Mendonca as they have allowed only two goals since the district playoffs.
“We were a little bit unlucky last year, but we can’t dwell on that,” de la Camara said. “We have to just take care of things in the first half.”