Girls soccer: Palm Beach Central beats Boca Raton 3-2, advances to first regional final
Saturday, January 26, 2013
by Matt Porter
Most of Boca Raton's opponents have a standout player or two, but usually a team as strong as the Bobcats doesn't need to alter its defense to stop one player.
Yulie Lopez is a different challenge entirely.
"In my 10 years of coaching, this is the first time we've completely had one player mark her the entire time," Boca coach Rachel Grimes said. "She's tough to stop. There's a reason she scored 50 goals, right?"
With a defender constantly attached to her hip, Lopez had one of Palm Beach Central's goals in a 3-2 win in a Class 5A regional semifinal victory Saturday night. Teammate Michelle Nilsen had the other two. And after withstanding a second-half surge from Boca, the Broncos (20-1) got to break new ground of their own: the first regional final appearance in program history.
The Broncos have made the regional semifinals three times, but they hadn't won before Saturday. In a home match Tuesday, they will meet Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas (22-1-1), the top-ranked program in the nation according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings. To advance, Aquinas beat Parkland-Douglas, which handed Central its only loss of the season.
The Broncos were in trouble early as Boca forced Broncos keeper Hayley Brunner to make four saves in the first four minutes. Bobcats senior Molli Glickman scored in the fourth, cashing in off a corner attempt by senior Taylor Centineo.
The Bobcats kept freshman Illham Boucekkine on Lopez, later switching to junior Keely Escalante. Lopez, the area's leading scorer, didn't find much running room early. But the extra attention helped Central carry the play.
In the 24th minute, Lopez weaved her way up the field and was tripped up inside the box. Nilsen took the kick and tucked it inside the left post to make it 1-1. With five minutes left in the half, Lopez took a long ball and broke down defenders all the way to the goal before making it 2-1.
Central pulled ahead by two in the 57th minute. A Broncos corner attempt was blocked out front, but Nilsen got just enough on a follow-up try. Less than a minute later, Boca charged back down the field and made it 3-2. Centineo sent in another corner, and senior Jamie Perriello finished with a header.
Boca was in attack mode during the second half, picking up a whopping nine corner attempts after earning just one in the first half. Boca sophomore keeper Kristin Wynne, pressed into starting duty after senior Mari Tamaccio suffered a concussion in the district final, made eight saves. None was larger than a point-blank denial of Lopez with five minutes left, a chance that would have put the game on ice.
At the other end, Brunner (nine saves) and the defense in front of her made several key stops.
"Luck? I don't know what to tell you," Central coach Tom Dawkins said.
"When you get to this level, that's the type of game you expect. We were just a little more fortunate."
Fort Lauderdale-South Florida HEAT 5, Boca Raton Christian 0: The visiting Blazers finished 7-11-1 on the season with a regional semifinal loss.
Benjamin 6, Cardinal Newman 0: Kali Chaplin scored four goals and added an assist to lead the Buccaneers (20-0-1) past the Crusaders in a regional semifinal game in Palm Beach Gardens. Benjamin advances to play in the regional final against American Heritage on Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens.
American Heritage 3, Hollywood-Chaminade 0: Sarah Coy scored two goals and Skye Gunn added a goal to lead the Stallions (22-0-1) to a victory in Hollywood in the other Class 2A regional semifinal.
Plantation-American Heritage 6, Jensen Beach 0: The visiting Falcons finished 13-9-2 on the season with a loss in the regional semifinals.
Melbourne 1 South Fork 0: Christie Funk had 13 saves in a losing effort for the Bulldogs (19-2-1) in a regional semifinal in Stuart.