Cypress Bay’s quest to make boys soccer history continued Tuesday night but not without a plenty of tense moments.
Hosting district rival St. Thomas Aquinas, the host Lightning used a cushion provided by two first half goals and survived a frantic final five minutes to hang on and defeat the Raiders 2-1 in a Region 4-5A semifinal.
And with that, Cypress Bay’s march toward the history books, trying to become the first boys’ soccer program in state history to win four consecutive titles, moves on.
Next up, Columbus in a 5A regional final Friday night at Cypress Bay after the Explorers edged Sunset 2-1 in overtime in their regional game.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“It’s never easy to beat a good team three times in one season so we anticipated that this would be a tough contest for us tonight,” said Cypress Bay coach John Ramos, whose team has now won 17 consecutive playoff games dating back to 2011. “We played a good first half and might have just let our guard down a little bit in those final few minutes and let them back in the game.”
Cypress Bay (16-1-3) managed to nurse its two goal lead throughout the second half. But with just four minutes left, Aquinas (9-7-5), which had been shutout twice by the Lighting — in the regular season and in last week’s district title game — finally found the back of the net when Gianni Serio knocked a loose ball past Lightning keeper Juan Calle to make it 2-1.
Just a minute later, Aquanis defender J. Alexander Guiteras fouled Juan Todeschini in the penalty box and it looked like Alex Bailey had put the game away for the Lightning when he converted the penalty kick. But a Cypress Bay player was called for moving into the box before Bailey kicked the ball forcing a re-kick.
That’s when Aquinas keeper Salvador Rio de la Loza Barba made a tremendous save to keep it a one-goal game. With less than 30 seconds left, Aquinas’ Vincent Companion made a deep throw-in right in front of the net that Nicolas Hinds got a solid head on causing the ball to bounce high in front of Calle, who had to leap as high as he could to secure the ball.
“Never a problem,” said Calle. “I knew I had it all the way.”
Cypress Bay took a 1-0 lead in the game’s 16th minute when Nicolas DeMujica scored from in front of the net off a centering pass from Juan Todeschini. The Lightning then scored what turned out to be the winning goal six minutes before halftime when Miguel Perez knifed a perfect pass down the middle that Stephan Waisman took and beat both Aquanis defenders to create a one-on-one and knocked it home.
“One game at a time,” said DeMujica when asked about how much the players are thinking about the record. “Coach (Ramos) won’t let us look past anyone but our next opponent and right now that’s Columbus on Friday so we won’t worry about anything but that.”
•Region 4-1A — Sagemont 4, Highland Christian 0:
Sagemont (18-7-1) advanced to the regional finals with a road victory over Highlands Christian (12-6).
Sophomore Carlos Pan headed in the first goal of the game off a corner-kick by fellow sophomore Mercado in the 21st minute.
Freshman Karl Ackermann scored the first of three second half goals for the Lions off a cross by junior Marco Wehrhahn in the 53rd minute.
After an own goal in the 78th minute by Highlands Christian, freshman Braedon Villano finished off the Knights with a kick over senior goalkeeper Zack Mueller with 10 minutes left.
“We had done some homework on Highlands,” Sagemont coach David Bishop said. “It was a great game. The boys played amazing.”
•Region 4-4A — Fort Lauderdale 1, Belen Jesuit 0:
A huddled Fort Lauderdale soccer team (20-1-3) chanted “never say die” after a scoreless regulation and overtime in a regional semifinal. In the end, it was goalkeeper Lucas Fancello’s hands and Javier Salas’ shoe that kept the Flying L’s soaring with a 6-5 penalty kick victory.
“I was really nervous,” said Fancello, who saved 4 of 8 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 score tied at 5 in penalty kicks, the weight of the game was left on the laces of 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 for 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 Delray Beach Atlantic on 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.”
• Region 4-3A — Archbishop McCarthy 1, American Heritage 0: In an almost anticlimactic fourth meeting between the district foes that went scoreless during regulation and two overtimes, visiting Archbishop McCarthy prevailed in a regional semifinal matchup, earning its first victory over the Patriots this season on penalty kicks (4-3).
Keeper Nicolas Zedan made two stops during the penalty-kick phase and Jordan Plummer kicked the clinching shot, lifting the Mavericks (14-5-4) into the state round of eight, while finishing 1-2-1 in their head-to-head matchup against the Patriots (19-4-1).
Throughout the match, the teams failed to generate any consistent flow to their passing attacks, although Heritage produced the majority of scoring chances, taking 13 shots to Archbishop McCarthy’s four during the 80-minute regulation.
The teams battled to a scoreless tie, with American Heritage gaining most of the quality scoring opportunities, forcing Mavericks’ keeper Nicolas Zedan into making nine saves. Archbishop McCarthy only had two shots on goal.