The Doral Academy boys’ soccer team has learned to trust in its skill.
And why wouldn’t it?
The Firebirds rolled into Tuesday night’s Region 4-3A semifinal clash with Plantation American Heritage with its best record in school history and a top-10 national ranking — also a first for the rising program.
So even after seeing several scoring chances go by the wayside, Doral knew it was a matter of time before it seized the advantage.
It finally did in the 49th minute of the second half when Lucca Barbaris angled in a rebound off a deflection for the eventual game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Heritage at home.
“It was a good effort by Jordy sending the ball in, and everyone crashed the middle [of the goal],” said Barbaris, a junior who has 15 goals this season. “I was fortunate to be able to put it away.”
Doral (23-1-1), ranked No.9 nationally by the National High School Soccer Coaches Association of America, will host Immokalee on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Region 4-3A final.
With one of its most signature wins in its program’s history coming against five-time state champion American Heritage (15-3-3), the Firebirds clinched their first berth in the regional final round since 2007 and the second in school history.
A Doral victory Friday would secure its first trip to the state final four.
“We created many more chances than they did and could have had more goals, but we punished their defense right away,” Doral Academy coach Pamela McDonald said. “These guys have been unbelievable all season, and we scheduled the best teams in Dade and Broward to prepare them for games like this.”
Barbaris’ goal came off a feed from senior Jordy Elera following a scramble that drew Heritage sophomore keeper Jared John away from the goal.
Heritage tied the score in the 33rd minute when Mikael DaSilva controlled a high-bouncing ball and looped it past Doral goalie Roberto Gatica.
Gatica and John each stopped plenty of shots and broke up scoring chances for their respective sides. Doral got one past John early when sophomore Felipe Ospina scored in the ninth minute, kicking home a ball that deflected off a Heritage defender.
▪ Region 4-5A — Cypress Bay 1, St. Thomas Aquinas 0: Nicholas Arboleda scored the decisive goal with 11 minutes left to play as Cypress Bay advanced to the 14-5A regional final. .
Arboleda, who scored two goals last week in a regional semifinal win over Flanagan, collected a loose ball in the penalty box and drove a right-footed shot into the back of the Aquinas net for the only goal of the game.
“I got the ball, turned toward the goal, hit it and prayed,” Arboleda said. “I just wanted to get it toward the goal and hope that the keeper would not get to it.”
Cypress Bay coach Colin Ilgner told his team at halftime that it had to make the most of its chances and had to take control in front of the net.
“We broke through in the second half and played more aggressive,” Ilgner said. “Nico did a good job getting to the ball and making the most of his opportunity.”
Cypress Bay (18-1-2) will play at Varela on Friday night for the regional title. St. Thomas ends its season at 12-9-6.
▪ Region 4-2A semifinal — Gulliver Prep 3, Edison 0: With its sights clearly set on defending a state title it captured a year ago, host Gulliver Prep turned in a solid performance as the Raiders shut down a talented and upset-minded Edison.
Gulliver (15-1-1) will look to punch its second ticket in a row to the state final four on Friday when the Raiders play host to American Heritage-Delray at 3:30 in a regional final.
Having their best season in a long time, the Red Raiders (18-4-1) came out with plenty of energy and had a few early chances but coudn’t score. Eight minutes before halftime, Andy Alvarez rifled a perfect free kick from the sideline in front of the net that Nick Megaloudis headed in to give Gulliver the lead at halftime.
“We knew coming in that they [Edison] had a couple of kids up top that could score goals so what we wanted to do was stay defensively sound, try to get the first goal and knew if we could get the second or third goal that they would more or less become disorganized and that would be our opportunity,” said Gulliver coach Matias Asorey, who got his wish when, three minutes into the second half, Alvarez headed in a perfect corner kick from Alex Moztarzadeh to make it 2-0.
With the game wrapped up, Moztarzadeh scored with less than a minute left on an assist from Kevin Hidalgo to complete the victory.
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Boca Raton 3, Deerfield Beach 0: The Bucks were unable to capitalize on their dominance early in the match, and the visiting Bobcats scored all of their goals on set pieces, including one on a penalty kick early in the second half.
“We did well with our passing, but when we got to the 18(-yard) mark, we just couldn’t get that final shot or pass in the attack,” said coach Frantz Edouard, whose Bucks finished 19-3-2. “Then we started making bad [fouls] and gave them two free kicks and a penalty kick. It was frustrating and disappointing.”
Boca Raton (13-8-8) got two goals and an assist from midfielder Mark Faeth as the Bobcats eliminated the Bucks in regional play for the second year in a row.
The Bucks managed to outshoot the Bobcats 14-11. Deerfield Beach’s early game pressure included a 15-yard shot by Theodore Stanley that bounced off the right corner of the post just nine seconds into the game. With its speed advantage and forward pressure, the home team continued to apply pressure without being able to score.
The visitors broke the scoreless tie in 32nd minute on a Faeth free kick from 18 yards away for the 1-0 lead that stood at the half.
In the second half, Deerfield Beach’s fouls mounted, resulting in a penalty kick that Faeth converted for the 2-0 lead 18 minutes into the second half. Boca freshman Wilian Arias headed in a free kick from Faeth from the right side to complete the scoring.
▪ Region 4-1A semifinal — SLAM Academy 1, Scheck Hillel 1 (SLAM wins 4-3 on PKs): In its first season playing in a district, SLAM Academy advanced to its first regional final and knocked off previously unbeaten Scheck Hillel, which had reached state the past two seasons, all in the same night.
After 100 minutes of soccer, including two scoreless overtime periods, SLAM (15-5-1) downed Hillel 4-3 on penalty kicks after playing a 1-1 game in a Region 4-1A semifinal on Tuesday night at North Miami Stadium.
Edwin McFarlane drilled the match-clinching penalty kick with a bullet to the left of the goalkeeper to bring his fellow Titans rushing him on the field.
“When the athletic director hired me, he asked, ‘Can you compete at a district level?’” SLAM coach Daniel Chong said. “I said, We have to be thinking higher than that — thinking states.”
The Titans will get a chance at exactly that on Friday night as they host Sagemont in a regional final at North Miami Stadium.
Hillel (18-1-2) tied the score when Julian Ribak scored with 27:21 remaining in regulation.
SLAM struck first Tuesday with a sixth-minute goal by Wilfredo Dilbert on an assist from McFarlane.
▪ Region 4-1A semifinal — Sagemont 3, Westminster Academy 2 (OT): An overtime golden goal penalty kick by Marco Wehrhahn gave Sagemont a victory at Weston Regional Park.
Wehrhahn also scored the final goal of regulation on a penalty kick when it was ruled that a Westminster player intentionally used his hand to prevent a goal.
The player was issued a red card, and Westminster finished the game down a man. In overtime, Wehrhahn was fouled inside the penalty box.
“I had to be confident in the side I picked and the first one was solid in the left corner and the second was power top right,” said Wehrhahn of his penalty kicks.
Westminster Academy (18-4-1) scored minutes into the game on a strike by Elijah Thompson. Sagemont evened the score on a goal by Julian Mercado. The teams were tied at 1 at halftime.
Westminster Academy went up 2-1 on a goal by sophomore John Kelley. That goal was followed by the red card and first penalty kick by Wehrhahn.
Sagemont (20-4-4) advances to the Region 4-1A final to face SLAM Academy on Friday.