The sting from falling one win short of a state championship still lingers on the Gulliver boys’ soccer team.
Gulliver moved a step closer to a second chance Tuesday night with one of its most critical victories of the season blanking rival Ransom Everglades 2-0 in a Region 4-2A semifinal at Ransom.
The Raiders (16-1-1), who lost in the Class 2A state final last season, will try to clinch a trip back to state Friday when they host Delray Beach American Heritage at 3:30 p.m. at Gulliver.
"This group learned a lot from last year and there’s some unfinished business," Gulliver coach Matias Asorey said. "The team is more mature and they know what it takes to get back to state. As much as it is great to play in front of a big crowd, we didn’t want to play for the crowd. The early goal silenced them and allowed us to play our game."
Adriano Castro struck quickly in the opening minute to give Gulliver a 1-0 edge and immediately establish control over the match.
With nearly 11 minutes left in the half, Castro helped out on another goal that was scored by Jose Novas.
"That first goal was important because it allowed us to get into the rhythm of the game and be more aggressive," Castro said. "It got everyone more hyped."
Gulliver nearly added a third on a couple of occasions as it continued to apply pressure to the Ransom goal.
Gulliver goalkeeper Esteban Sapentnizky kept Ransom off the board with a couple of key saves in the second half and recorded his 10th shutout of the season.
"Last year’s loss has hit everyone hard," Novas said. "Today was a big game, but it’s only one step to what we really want."
Two minutes into the extra period, Fabio Casteneda took a deflection off a corner kick and one-timed it off his left foot for the game-winning goal from just outside the 18-yard box on the far post.
“I saw them clear it out and I saw the open opportunity, and once I shot it, I couldn’t believe it went in,” Casteneda said. “It just felt like a dream. Seeing everyone run at me was a great feeling.”
Columbus (19-4-5) advances to the regional finals for the first time in school history in a season where the Explorers won the district for the first time in 25 years. They will travel to Weston to face three-time defending state champion Cypress Bay at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.
The dramatic win comes after Columbus had just finished off Varela 3-2 in another overtime affair on Thursday.
“We’re built for that,” Columbus coach Michael Stewart said. “It’s the mental toughness of saying that we play till the game is over.”
Sunset (14-4-5) struck first Tuesday with a Mario Malpica goal off a ricochet from a diving save from Columbus goalkeeper Bryan Alvarez in the ninth minute.
Columbus responded six minutes later when Eduardo Diaz scored on a penalty kick after drawing a foul in the box on Sunset goalkeeper David Villegas.
The Hurricanes took another step towards a title shot with a 2-0 victory over Palmer Trinity in the Class 1A boys’ soccer regional semifinals Tuesday at North Miami Stadium. Hillel (17-2) will face Sagemont, a 4-0 winner over Highlands Christian, in the regional final on either Thursday or Friday. Palmer Trinity finishes its season at 16-5-5.
Hillel lost to Sagemont last year in the regular season before knocking them off in the regional final.
“Those were tough matches. We know they’ll be ready,” Hillel co-captain Benjamin Vaisberg said. “But we’re definitely ready too.”
After that regional final win, the the Hurricanes advanced to the state championship but fell to perennial power Tampa Prep the 1A championship game in Melbourne. With everyone back from that squad, there’s a singular purpose.
“This team has unfinished business, and they're not going to be satisfied until they have their names on that state championship trophy,” Hillel coach Ben Magidson said.
Not that Magidson didn’t see room for improvement after a first half that saw the Hurricanes unable to finish a number of clear chances as Albert Dichy and Daniel Furmanski helped create a number of scoring opportunities for Hillel. Dichy’s 12th minute shot found the side netting while Furmanski’s mazy run into the box ended with his shot being cleared by the Falcons’ defense.
All that changed early in the second half when the ball was laid back to freshman Alan Chocron who blasted it past Palmer goalkeeper Daniel du Feu from 25 yards to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
Hillel made it 2-0 when Julian Ribak, who was a force on the wings for the Hurricanes all evening, chased down a ball that seem destined to cross the endline and cut it back for Daniel Moudaeb, who placed it past du Feu for the 2-0 lead.
“It’s not like American football when you can just say at halftime we’re going to shut down this guy or this guy,” Magidson said. “I told them they weren’t playing to their strengths, making crisp passes. They started doing that, and you saw the result.”
The Falcons’ best chance came in the 27h minute when Alejandro Rodriguez-Santilli attempted an overhead kick from the corner of the Hillel box. His shot was on target but right at Hurricanes’ goalie Isi Chocron.
“They were excellent,” Palmer assistant coach Rob Johnstone said of Hillel. “Their creativity and movement in attack was hard to defend. They’re going to be a tough team to stop.”
“I was really nervous,” said Fancello, who saved four of eight penalty kicks. “It was the first time in my career that I missed a penalty (kick). It definitely got to me but I had to just keep doing what I do. I had trust in my team and we came through with the win.”
With the teams tied 5-5 in penalty kicks, the weight of the game was left on the laces of Javier Salas. Salas stepped back from the ball and shot forward like a rubber band, ripping the ball to the left. The keeper tipped the ball into the post but it ricocheted into the net.
“It felt great,” Salas said. “I was waiting fort the keeper to move. We train on them everyday. We go up and we were ready for it. They were knocking on our door and we were knocking on theirs.”
Chippy play resulted in five yellow cards in the second half and overtime. Facello was tested often and responded with fingertip saves, igniting the stands and sideline.
“The players were getting a little tired so what we were hoping for was to get through and to penalties,” Flying L’s coach Andre Reynolds said. “We did it before in the district semifinals and I was confident. It was very nerve wracking in the end and we made it a little bit hard for ourselves but at the end of the day we got the win and we move on to the regional finals. My goalkeeper did amazing.”
The Flying L’s (20-1-3), winners of 14 consecutive games, face Atlantic Friday in the 4A regional final.
“I just have to say hats off to them because they are a really good team,” Reynolds said. “They are well conditioned and well coached. At the end of the day, we got the win and I am very happy in my first season coaching them.”