LUTZ — Vito Bavaro acknowledged his team's size and strength advantage against a smaller, quicker Steinbrenner squad.
So naturally, continuing in the pleasant surprises for the Bradenton Lakewood Ranch coach this postseason, he got the season's biggest goal from the smallest player on the field. And it was a header.
Five-foot-1 junior midfielder Jacob Severson's header in the 54th minute lifted the Mustangs (20-4-3) to a 1-0 victory Tuesday at Steinbrenner (14-4-3) in the Class 4A, Region 3 semifinals, putting the school one win from its first Final Four appearance.
"The smallest guy on the field scores the header. How do you like that?" Bavaro said. "Today he's 6 foot 10."
Lakewood Ranch has eliminated two Hillsborough County teams in the playoffs. Last week, the Mustangs pulled off a massive upset of tournament favorite Jesuit. As in that game, senior goalkeeper Daniel Murray was solid. He saved seven shots, including Steinbrenner forward Oliver Ortiz's left-footed potential tying goal in the 77th minute. That was the best chance for the Warriors, who did not have the type of response after the goal that coach Chad Ebright wanted.
"You're always hoping to get a better response," he said. "It's one of those things where you can practice every skill and every set piece and every aspect of the game except for that. You can't replicate it."
Severson said his goal was his first off of a header.
"It feels great," he said. "Most of the time, it was one of our bigger kids."