Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

DOWN TO THE WIRE | Lakewood Ranch Outlasts Seminole, Plays for 5A Title Next Saturday

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

DOWN TO THE WIRE | Lakewood Ranch Outlasts Seminole, Plays for 5A Title Next Saturday

Article excerpt

BOYS SOCCER CLASS 5A STATE SEMIFINAL

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- One of the biggest games in the history of Lakewood Ranch High's boys soccer program was winding to a close and Pablo Vargas was powerless.

The Mustangs junior forward is electric, a spark plug for Ranch's neck-spinning attack. But in the final minutes of Ranch's Class 5A state semifinal Friday against Sanford Seminole, Vargas could only watch from the sideline after being saddled with a yellow card.

Then, in a moment fresh from central casting, Vargas re-entered the game and fielded a throw-in off his chest. Then he beat one defender to the left, weaved around another and faked to his right. After Seminoles goalie Noah Smith bit, Vargas buried an attempt inside the left post, leaving Smith nothing to do but fruitlessly lunge forward.

If anyone needed more proof of how special this season has been for the Mustangs, it was right there. Vargas' goal opened a two- goal lead and proved to be the game-winner in Ranch's 4-3 victory, which sends the Mustangs to a state final for the first time in team history.

Ranked 10th in the nation and first in Class 5A by MaxPreps, Lakewood Ranch (20-2-1) plays for the Class 5A championship at 4 p.m., Feb. 18, against Weston Cypress Bay at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand.

"That was really exciting," Vargas said. "I don't know why I got that yellow, but when I came in and scored that goal, it felt amazing. I felt really pumped."

There were about four minutes to play when Vargas scored. Moments later, the Mustangs sprinted toward the bleachers to thank the large crowd, comprised mostly of a packed student section.

Meanwhile, head coach Vito Bavaro, who battled through a stomach virus early in Ranch's postseason run, was able to take a sigh of relief.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter as long as you win. It doesn't matter if it's 2-1, 1-0, 6-0. It's 4-3," Bavaro said. "We're going to state, first time the program has ever been there. And I'm very proud."

The Seminoles made Lakewood Ranch grind for it. …

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