Three games ago, immediately after the Ponte Vedra Sharks lost in the district title soccer game against Matanzas, Ponte Vedra’s boys’ soccer coach Danny Villerreal proclaimed, “We’ll be okay.”
Apparently, the coach knew what he was talking about, for the Sharks – fresh off impressive wins over Paxon and Stanton – prepared to play in the regional finals while district champion Matanzas will watch from the sideline.
Ponte Vedra traveled to Paxon last week and humbled the Eagles 5-1, although Paxon took an early lead off a corner kick at the 31-minute mark. The Sharks’ first goal was an indication of what was to come. Carson King’s looping throw-in from the left side of the Paxon goal handcuffed the Paxon keeper momentarily, then bounced behind him into the goal to even matters.
Jack Bingemann scored the go-ahead goal for the Sharks at the 16-minute mark on a melee in front of the Eagle cage, then Steven Sifontes padded the Ponte Vedra lead scoring at the 26-minute of the second half from an assist by Hans Lansing.
When Lucas Nomura was fouled in the box 10 minutes later, his PK beat the keeper low on the left side, putting Ponte Vedra up 4-1. Parker Romero finished the scoring for Ponte Vedra when his long high direct kick found its way over the keeper’s head and into the goal.
Last Saturday evening, the Sharks continued their drive for a repeat state championship when they faced the Stanton Blue Devils in the regional semi-final action. The Sharks dominated play for more than 20 minutes, but had nothing to show for it but a trio of “near miss” shots. Then at the midway point of the first half, Sifontes lined up for a direct free kick just outside the penalty area. His high shot not only made it over the wall of defenders, but also over the keeper’s head as well to put the Sharks up 1-0.
Sifontes also accounted for Ponte Vedra’s other goal, a second-half masterpiece of footwork off a header from Donovan Crowley.
The Sharks had a final scoring opportunity with less than a minute to play when the Stanton keeper, who failed to make contact with the ball, took down Rendon Crowley in the box. Crowley had to be helped off the field and Bingemann took the resulting penalty kick. He aimed a low liner to the keeper’s right side, only to have the goalie guess right and make the save.
Ponte Vedra played solid defense throughout, asking their keeper Brian Salzman to make just three serious saves – one on a direct free kick with seconds left in the first half.