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He's the right player, in the right place, at the right time

Ask Ryan Villiard what makes him so dangerous around the opposing net, and the senior forward can't really put his finger _ sorry, foot _ on it.

It's more of a feeling, really. The kind of feeling he gets when the ball finds its way to his feet and he's bearing down on the opposing goal.

"A lot of it is being at the right place," he said, "at the right time."

How appropriate. Because his Mitchell teammates are also at the right place, at the right time, thanks in large part to Villiard.

Mustang Stadium is the site of this week's Class 5A, District 5 tournament. Tuesday Land O'Lakes and River Ridge battle in the semifinal to advance to Friday's district final.

There, the winner faces top-seeded Mitchell, which has already clinched the program's first postseason appearance.

The prize is the title, and a home playoff game.

To win the Mustangs' (9-2-5) first district championship, to host its first playoff game, is the kind of prize Mitchell's seniors desire after three hardluck seasons, Villiard especially.

He's been to the playoffs twice already, with the football team as its kicker. But this is his sport, and this is the moment the seniors have waited for.

"The first few years were tough," he said. "Especially last year, knowing we should have done better than we did (winning six games.)

"It's setting up good for ourselves. We did what we wanted to do. We didn't want to tie as many games as we did coming in, but it means a lot to all of the seniors who have been here all four years to be at this point, and now to have districts at home.

"We can win our first district title."

Villiard will play a pivotal role in that title quest, as he has throughout the season for his team. Every time the senior forward finds the net, it's a school record. That record now stands at 24 goals and 54 points (he also has six assists.)

"I described him once as saying he's all hustle," coach Pio Rizzo said. "It just doesn't stop. Everybody, I think, they just feed off his energy."

And his production. The team's second-leading goals scorer, Andrew Dematos, has nine. That's how important Villiard is.

"He has a nose for the net," Rizzo said. "He knows where he has to be. He's always at the right place at the right time. He has that kind of quality for a goal-scorer. He reads, he anticipates mistakes from defenders in the back, and when they make a mistake he makes them pay for it."

Villiard is dangerous either on the breakaway or hanging in front of the net, ready to exploit a breakdown. He's not sure how he does it, just that he does.

"I'm not quite sure all the time," Villiard said. "It just works out that way for me. I move where I'm comfortable, and as the game goes on I watch everyone else go, see where they like to line-up, and then I move according to them."

Villiard doesn't usually talk this much, instead preferring to let his game speak for him. The Mustangs' leader is quiet one.

"He's our captain," his coach said. "He does everything right. He works his butt off in practice. He works his butt off in the game.

"His actions speak louder than words."

Villiard said raising his voice is a waste of energy.

To lead he only has to be seen, he said, not heard.

"I don't like to say much," he said. "I don't feel it does much the team to just sit there and yell at everybody. I just play the way I know I can and help everybody out. In practice I always work hard, I do what I can, I just always give 110-percent.

"If you show by example, it works out better that way."

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