As Grace King senior Wilmer Toro stood over a penalty kick in the final moments of a scoreless Division I quarterfinals match against No. 2 Mandeville, his focus was clear.
“I only had one thing on my mind — to make it,” he said. “I was nervous. We’ve been practicing PKs, so when he called the PK, it was mine. I took control and just hit it to the left of the goalie. I celebrated for my mom. It was for her. I told her if I scored, that I would dedicate it to her. This is actually the first game that she came to this season.”
Toro’s kick was the difference as No. 10 Grace King upset the Skippers with a 1-0 victory at Joe Yenni Stadium on Tuesday.
The Fighting Irish will travel to play No. 3 Acadiana in the semifinals later this week. The Rams defeated No. 6 Byrd 2-0 to advance.
Grace King coach Raul Hernandez said Toro’s execution was a product of practice.
“He has been practicing PKs extra at practice,” Hernandez said. “When we leave, he stays extra to get extra shots. He’s been wanting to be in this situation.”
Grace King lost to Mandeville 3-0 in December, and the Irish looked like a team focused on revenge. Grace King (20-5-2) controlled possession and the pace of play from start to finish as Mandeville struggled while being outshot 13-7.
After a scoreless first half, the Irish continued to pressure the Skippers as Toro’s volley in the 50th minute was saved by Spencer Hollander, who finished with five saves. In the 68th minute, Carlos Borjas sent a powerful shot off the crossbar.
In the 77th minute, Hollander came out on a charging Marcelo Carias to make a solid save, but just two minutes later Grace King drew a foul in the box to set up the game-winner.
Mandeville (19-3-2) generated a couple of chances in stoppage time, but both went wide.
Mandeville coach Aris Kyriakides said his team, which generated just two shots on goal, simply couldn’t create any offense.
“We were not on tonight,” he said. “We chose the wrong time to play like that. They are a quality team. We had a fight on our hands, and, unfortunately, the call went their way. It looked worse than it was, but I don’t blame the ref for making the call.”
Hernandez said his team benefitted from a loud Grace King crowd and a solid game plan.
“We came in hard and created the tempo of the game,” he said. “(Mandeville) beat us earlier this year 3-0, so we knew we would needed to come and compete. The crowd was phenomenal. They stepped up tonight.”
Grace King generated the majority of the first-half chances as Mandeville struggled to connect its passes. The first dangerous chance came in the 17th minute as Grace King’s Bajazit Muminovic unleashed a low, hard shot in the box that was saved by Hollander.
A minute later, Mandeville sent a shot off the crossbar, but the Irish controlled the chances from there.
In the 25th minute, Muminovic sent a header wide off a corner, and in the 37th minute, Halco Hajdarevic’s shot in the box went wide as the half ended in a scoreless tie.