Despite a wet and sloppy field thanks to a steady game-long downpour, the Cypress Bay boys’ soccer team did exactly what three-time defending state champions are supposed to do against an inferior opponent: Score early and often.
The Lightning scored two quick goals in the game’s first 10 minutes on its home field Thursday night to start an easy 6-0 shutout of Miramar in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal contest.
Cypress Bay (15-1-3) will host district rival St. Thomas Aquinas Tuesday in a regional semifinal contest. The Lightning beat the Raiders in the district final this past week.
“We talked about the wet conditions before the game and about coming out a little more alert because you never know if that can affect you in a positive or negative way,” Cypress Bay coach John Ramos said. “The kids did a good job of coming out and taking control of the game early.”
The Lightning players did a good job of spreading the wealth as well as five different players scored. Only Nicolas DeMujica was a multiple scorer with two goals while Stefano Delgado, Stephan Waisman, Keith Herrera and Juan Todeschini each had one.
Cypress Bay’s quest to kick down the doors of history is off and running. Last year’s victory over Winter Garden West Orange in the state title game in Melbourne made them the first public school team in state history to win three straight.
But they still share the record of three in a row with four other private schools: Aquinas, Tampa Berkeley Prep, Tampa Jesuit and Clearwater Central Catholic. No school has ever won four in a row, however, and Ramos said that goal has managed to keep his kids hungry all season long.
“I thought I might have to but to be honest I really haven’t had to do too much to motivate them, they’ve done a pretty good job of motivating themselves all season,” said Ramos. “That’s a tribute to our seniors and some of the other kids including Dylan [Sharp] and Juan [Todeschini].”
Sharp, the team captain and Toseschini are the the only two Lightning players who have been here for all three titles.
“The harder and harder it gets and the bigger the challenge makes it that much more gratifying for us,” said Sharp. “We don’t shy away from the challenge, we embrace it.”
The last time Aquinas and the Lightning tangled, it was decided by a spectacular overtime goal in a 1-0 Cypress Bay district title win. There’s no need to remind the St. Thomas players.
“It as a hard fought game. It always is against them,” said Raiders’ goalkeeper and co-captain Daniel Gagliardi. “I feel like tonight showed were focused and ready to take them on again.”
With the rain pouring down at Flanagan (11-4-5), the Raiders poured on the pressure early. Minutes after H. Max Gonzalez darted past two defenders and scored to make it 1-0 in the 10th minute, Vincent Companion added a second, controlling the ball just outside the Falcons’ penalty box and hitting a low shot past Flanagan goalkeeper Tyler Veinot.
Sophomore Travis Brumfield then made it 3-0 with 10 minutes to play in the first half, cutting in from the endline and scoring from a tricky angle.
The early goals were welcomed for St. Thomas coach John Walsh, who said he began tweaking the Raiders’ offense just a few weeks ago as his team was struggling to create goals.
“We’ve been playing really nice between the boxes but just weren’t creating enough chances,” he said. “We changed things up a bit, and we continue to get better. We created a lot of chances tonight, but we left a lot on the table too.”
Brumfield was involved in the Raiders’ fourth goal as he was taken down in the penalty box by Veinot midway through the second half. Jean Haddad converted the penalty to make it 4-0.
Flanagan’s best chance came with 10 minutes to play when Christian Thorne dashed in alone toward the St. Thomas goal. But Gagliardi rushed out to meet him and Thorne’s shot sailed over the goal.
Gabriel Mesa tacked on the final goal with two minutes left for St. Thomas.
The Eagles, instead, were forced into overtime, and managed to last the extra time with two man down (red cards due to unsportsmanlike conduct).
Douglas goalkeeper Kyle Spear, after standing out during the 100 minutes of play, was outstanding in the penalty kicks, turning away two shots, lifting the Eagles to a 2-1 (4-2 PK) victory over the Broncos.
“As we got closer (in the season) to the district playoffs, PKs became more of a priority in practice because that’s always a possibility,” Eagles coach Phil Lamarre said. His Eagles (14-3-7) will face Boca Raton in Tuesday’s round of 16. The Broncos ended their season at 17-5-1.
Douglas’ Josh Bolona, Andreas Turcott, Gabriel Lopez, and Raheem Small each made his penalty kick attempts, not needing a fifth kicker following Spear’s save. He finished with 15 saves for the match.
Sophomore Marcos Medeiros scored on an unassisted goal when he dispossessed Palm Beach Central stopper Manuel Vidal and dribbled the ball 25 yards before converting the one-on-one past Bronco keeper Carlos Hernandez. But Palm Central answered in the closing minute of regulation on a Frank Matos close-range shot after a mad scramble in the penalty box to bring the game into extra time.
“I saw the guys were a little down after giving up that goal,” Spear, a co-captain said. “But they did a good job of not letting it get down, especially after feeling they had the game wrapped up.”
The teams battled to a 0-0 first half, but Douglas clearly was the team with at least a handful of clear opportunities as Palm Beach Central defenders were prone to lapses against the breakaways.
Mereidos had at least three quality opportunities during the last 18 minutes of the first half, twice came on one-on-one breakaways where he was upended by a defender inside the box. The other scoring chance came when his header off a corner bounced inches wide.
Smalls had two close-range breakaway shots sail wide.
“The surface wasn’t very conducive for play,” Fort Lauderdale coach Andre Reynolds said. “It was a little wet and muddy so it wasn’t conducive for our style of play. We dominated and had a lot of chances we should have taken. At the end of the day we only needed one goal. And got the all important one.”
The solo score came late in the second half when outside midfielder Bievenel Fertile rifled in a shot that deflected off of a defenders head and into the net.
“I was expecting it, but I was surprised,” Fertile said. “To make that goal, you have to work hard for it. But I am really happy that I scored that goal. It was hard to play on the field. At the end I am really happy about it.”
A mud midfield halted through balls and traumatized traps. The Flying L’s (19-1-3) denied several Lion assaults in the final minutes.
Fort Lauderdale plays Belen Jesuit in the regional semifinals.