As it has for much of the past decade, Vero Beach’s path to the girls lacrosse state tournament has gone through Benjamin.
The schools met again Tuesday night in a second-round play-in game, with the Indians winning 13-6 at Jupiter Community Park to advance to Friday’s third round.
Gabby Sposato scored four goals, and Preston Wakeland added three scores for Vero Beach (15-2), which won seven state championships between 2008 and 2015.
For much of their title run, the Indians had to beat Benjamin along the way.
“They’re a final four team,” Bucs coach Sarah Burlingame said of the Indians, who were the state runner-up last season. “They’re always a final-game team. They’ve always been the team to beat. Last year they were in the finals. So we know they are always the team we have to emerge beyond.”
Benjamin (11-9) started well, taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1 within the first eight minutes.
But the Indians regrouped quickly behind Sposato and Wakeland, scoring eight unanswered goals to take a 9-2 halftime lead.
Sposato and Wakeland each had three goals in the first half, while Raegen Gibbons had two. Sposato’s third goal came with 13 seconds remaining to give Vero Beach a seven-goal halftime cushion.
“We were a little tentative in the first half,” Burlingame said.
The Bucs got back on the board early in the second half, scoring within the first minute on a goal by junior captain Kylie Kempe.
The score jump-started the Bucs’ second-half offense.
Benjamin doubled its scoring output in the half, matching Vero Beach with four goals. Kempe added her second goal in the half, while Jenna Byrne and Hannah Hilcott also scored.
It wasn’t enough to take down the high-powered Indians, but Burlingame was proud of her team’s effort after falling behind early.
“There’s nothing more that says anything about your character than who you are when the chips are down,” she said. “These girls are hungry, they’re competitors, and they’re all in to the last second. They believe anything can happen.”
Hilcott finished with two goals for the Bucs, while Ashley Turner also scored.
Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas 8, Oxbridge Academy 0: Christian Tomei had 17 saves, but the Thunderwolves fell to the Raiders in the Region 3 second-round play-in match in Fort Lauderdale.