Wheeler (9-2-2, 3-1) trailed 1-0 late in the second half, but Facundo Fabre’s goal with 2:19 remaining forced the game into overtime. After two scoreless overtime periods, the Wildcats outscored Lassiter 5-4 in penalty kicks to secure their biggest win of the year.
It was a stunning loss for Lassiter (11-1, 2-1), which entered the game as not only the No. 1 team in Class AAAAA, but also in the nation, according to the ESPN Rise spring soccer rankings.
Wheeler coach Salomon Corella said his team was ready for this moment.
“We knew this was coming,” said Corella, whose Wildcats are ranked 46th in the ESPN poll. “We were well prepared. These kids have been working hard since the middle of January, and that’s why we knew that we could beat them. We have so much respect for (Lassiter), but (Friday) was our night.”
After a scoreless first half, Lassiter got on the scoreboard first when Shaban Abousaud took a cross from Will Robinson and scored on a breakaway to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead with 16:20 remaining in regulation.
It appeared as if Lassiter would be able hold on to its narrow advantage and take the win as the game entered its final minutes. But Fabre headed the ball into the goal at the 2:19 mark to even the score and eventually force the game into overtime.
After the two scoreless 5-minute overtime periods, the game entered the penalty kicks.
Both teams made their first penalty kicks, with Brandon Barbero converting for Lassiter and goalkeeper Kekuta Jatta converting his for Wheeler. But Abousaud missed Lassiter’s second attempt, and Lucas Souza made his for Wheeler to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
That proved to be the difference as Martijn Edelman made the fifth and final penalty kick for Wheeler, giving the Wildcats the victory.
“In this kind of situation, we knew the first team that makes a mistake (in penalty kicks) is usually the team that loses, and we capitalized on their mistake, so our guys did what they were trained to do,” Corella said.
Mickey McNeill, a community coach who shares coaching duties with Corella, said Wheeler was ready for that kind of pressure situation.
“We work on that in practice, so when we’re in situations like that, we are able to come through,” McNeill said. “The boys showed so much composure, and it’s the result of that.”