Tucked away in a quiet corner of Key Biscayne, MAST Academy, since the school opened its doors in the early ’90s, has always thrived and been known for its aquatic sports.
On Thursday night, it became known for something else — boys’ soccer.
That came following MAST’s dramatic 3-2 double-overtime victory over Miami Beach in the GMAC championship game at Traz Powell Stadium, giving the school its first GMAC title in any non-aquatic sport.
Just when the game looked like it was headed to penalty kicks, the Makos (16-2-1) won it with three minutes left in the second OT.
Freshman Roc Bancells made a clean steal deep in Beach territory, creating an immediate two-on-one breakaway with teammate Valentin Sabella. Bancells dished once to Sabella, and when Beach keeper Jose Escobar tried to get to Sabella and couldn’t, he passed right back to Bancells, who knocked it into the open net as MAST players stormed the field in mass celebration.
“We work on two-on-ones all the time and when I got the steal I spotted Valentin
right away and knew we had a great chance,” Bancells said. “When he got it back to me and nobody was in front of the net, it was a great feeling because I knew how big something like this was for our school.”
But if it hadn’t been for Sabella’s earlier heroics, there would have been no chance for Bancells.
That’s because MAST, after falling behind 2-1 when Beach (18-2-1) scored with 19 minutes left on a Leonardo Acosta goal, was down to its last five minutes of regulation time.
That’s when Luc Fritzenwalder went airborne and delivered a spectacular bicycle kick pass in front of the net that caught even Escobar off-guard and found Sabella, who headed it into the left side to tie the game.
“Just an amazing moment, and I simply cannot be more proud of these kids for not just winning this game tonight but having the fortitude to keep battling and hang in there to find a way to get it tied late,” said MAST head coach Gaston Rubio. “ It just shows that MAST isn’t just about water anymore. We’re starting to change the culture, and tonight was a big step toward that.”
The Makos took a 1-0 lead to the locker room at the break thanks to a Giancarlo Arguello penalty kick after Beach’s Toby Squire got called for a hard foul inside the penalty box just five minutes before halftime.
But with a 20 mph wind playing a big factor, Beach took advantage of that by controlling much of the second half. The Hi Tides tied the game just seven minutes into the second half when Alfredo Astaburuaga chested a shot in off a cross from Kevin Giraldo. The play that will haunt the Hi Tides came just two minutes before Sabella’s tying goal when they had their own 2-on-1 breakaway and possible 3-1 lead. But an open shot went just to the right of the post.
Said Rubio: “These kids, they just don’t give up. A lot of heart, a lot of guts. I ask them to give me a lot of that all the time, and they sure did out there tonight.”