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Gators can celebrate

CLASS 2A GIRLS SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: With its season on the line, Land O'Lakes turns to Stacy Bishop one last time.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003


TAMPA -- Stacy Bishop has always envisioned scoring the goal that would lead Land O'Lakes to a state championship.

Her dream became reality Saturday when Bishop scored the lone goal on a breakaway in a 1-0 win over Riviera Beach Suncoast.

"I get a picture of the game in my head and I score the winning goal," said Bishop, who extended her single-season school record to 55 goals and her all-time county mark to 194.

The win marked the first team state championship in school history. The Gators mobbed each other on the Ed Radice Sports Complex field after the final whistle, as a throng of more than 400 cheered.

"To win states is the ultimate," said Land O'Lakes coach Vicky King, a gold medal hanging from her neck. "You become recognized. Once you win the state championship they can't take it away from you."

Similar to Land O'Lakes' 2-1 win over Gulf Breeze in Thursday's semifinal, Saturday's game was not without controversy. This time it was on a ball deflected over the Gator net by Aleisha Peterson in the 58th minute.

The Chargers argued the ball went through a hole in the net behind the crossbar. Two days earlier, Land O'Lakes defender Jessica Gagnon appeared in the first of four overtimes to deflect a shot with her right arm, but the officials made no call. Suncoast didn't get the call it wanted Saturday, either.

"I congratulate them for the win," said Suncoast coach Dan Kriedler, arguing that his players said they saw the ball go through the net. "It's just too bad it had to happen the way it did. When you get beat you want to get beat on the field, and not by a judgment call."

Land O'Lakes goalkeeper Shannon Aitken said she got her left hand on a shot from a crowd in the penalty box and saw Peterson head the ball over the crossbar.

"The ball comes in and I just headed it over," Peterson said. "I knew it went over. There was a hole right where it went over."

Land O'Lakes (26-3), which trailed Gulf Breeze 1-0 in the first half of Thursday's semifinal, played a scoreless first half against Suncoast (24-2) despite being outshot 6-1.

With the wind at their backs in the second half, the Gators picked up on offense with Bishop and Sara Brinkley denied by Suncoast keeper Andi Mohl.

In the 49th minute, Bishop pounced on a loose ball near midfield and dribbled in alone on Mohl, who raced out 25 yards to confront the center-midfielder. Bishop shot low with her right foot. Mohl got a piece of the ball, which trickled past the goal line as Bishop was leveled by sweeper Janeke Simpkins.

"The ball was in front of me and the keeper went for the ball," Bishop said. "I just kind of kicked it (with my right foot) and went tumbling."

Bishop lay on the ground for a few moments and did not see her goal. But she knew it went in "when people started cheering."

After that, neither team could muster a decent scoring chance.

"We just tried to keep it together ... play it tight and accomplish our goal," Land O'Lakes sweeper Tara Eugenides said.

"We knew we could do it," said Casie Poyssick, one of 10 Land O'Lakes seniors. "We just had to get a goal and play our game."

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