Having just gone through a tough drag’em-out affair that went right down to the final minute in their district final two weeks ago, it was supposed to be more of the same when the South Plantation and Cypress Bay boys’ soccer teams took the field on Saturday afternoon.
But Cypress Bay, which has gotten its program to the point where success is now measured by nothing short of state championships — five in the past seven years including last season — would have none of that.
Lightning forward Gustavo Curiel scored just 10 minutes into the game, Gordon Phipps popped a second score nine minutes later and Cypress Bay was well on its way to an easier-than-expected 5-0 shutout of the Paladins in a Region 4-5A semifinal at Cypress Bay High School.
The Lightning (20-1-0) now advance to their ninth consecutive regional final and will host Miami Beach on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a berth in the state semifinal on the line.
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Cypress Bay is fortunate to even be playing. Their season was down to its final seven minutes two weeks ago when they trailed Western in their district semifinal before rallying for two goals in the final seven minutes to win it 2-1. Their district final to South Plantation also came down to the final minute when a goal gave them another 2-1 win.
“To be honest, the conditions were terrible that week and it really didn’t allow us to maximize the way we play,”said Cypress Bay head coach Colin Ilgner referring to the district tournament played at Coral Glades High School. “The advantage of playing on our own field which is in good condition was a major difference. It allowed us to move the ball around and play our type of game. We have a lot of very good players that are very technically gifted so when they get the chance to move ball around and maintain possession.”
Leading 2-0 at the break, the Lightning didn’t bother trying to sit on and milk the lead. They came out firing. Even after Curiel missed a penalty kick, Alejandro Mastella knocked one in off an assist from Phipps midway through the second half to make it 3-0. The floodgates opened after that as Curiel added a second goal before Eric Reyes popped one in to complete the scoring.
We just came in ready to play well and win and that’s what we went out and did today,”said Curiel who now has 20 goals this season. “We have a really strong team and are getting better at the right time.”
The Paladins, who enjoyed a revival of he program this year under first year coach Diego Echeverri, were making only their third regional appearance in the last 20 years and finished 14-5-2.
Said Ilgner: “We felt fortunate to get through those first two (district) games. It’s tough because the bar is set really high around here now and the pressure is always on us to perform because everyone is after you every week. The pressure is there but that’s what we thrive on.”
Region 4-5A semifinal - Miami Beach 3, Varela 0: It was a year ago that Miami Beach traveled to Cypress Bay for a boys soccer regional final and a shot at a berth in the state final four for the first time since 1994.
The Hi-Tides were eight minutes away from that dream before Cypress Bay snatched it away with two late goals for a 2-1 win. Next week, they will get another chance, that following Saturday night’s 3-0 shutout of Varela in a Region 4-5A semifinal at Traz Powell Stadium.
Beach’s Lucas Arellano was the hero on Saturday night as his two first half goals, one on a penalty kick staked his team a 2-0 lead at the break. After the Vipers (15-3-4) applied major pressure early in the second half, the Hi-Tides (22-2-1) put it away when Julian Enriquez scored off an assist from Josie “Chino” Aguilar just after the water break.
“We knew Varela was a good team and that it was going to take a strong effort tonight,” said Beach head coach Edgar Botto. “A real nice effort by all of the kids and we’re looking forward to another opportunity against a great program like Cypress Bay.”
Region 3-5A semifinal - Delray Atlantic 1, Monarch 1 (Atlantic advances 4-1 on PKs)
Region 4-3A semifinal - American Heritage 3, Miami Jackson 2: Miles Walters, Anibal Morales-Rosario and Morris Senior each had a goal. Benji Grossi had two assists and Walters had won. Heritage (18-1-3) will travel to play Cape Coral Mariner on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the next round.
Region 4-2A semifinal - La Salle 1, Gulliver 0: The Royal Lions (15-2-2) advanced to the regional finals for the second consecutive season.
Region 4-2A semifinal - Delray American Heritage 1, NSU University School 1 (American Heritage advances 1-0 on PKs)
Region 4-1A semifinal - Miami Country Day 2, Divine Savior 1: Dre Medici scored a goal on an assist from Pedro Levi in the first half. Diego Oropeza scored the winning goal with a little over seven minutes left in the match from an assist from Medici. Freshman goalkeeper Chris Capote made 15 saves and stopped a penalty kick in the first two minutes of the match. MCD is 17-4-3 and will play at Palmer Trinity at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the regional finals.
Region 4-1A semifinal - Palmer Trinity 2, SLAM 1