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Preps

Mitchell, Land O'Lakes play to draw

By JAMAL THALJI
Published December 5, 2003

TRINITY - Finally, 11 months after Mitchell's one-goal victory against Land O'Lakes, the Gators' last loss en route to the Class 2A state championship last season, the two renewed what is fast becoming a scorching rivalry Thursday.

It ended in a dead heat.

The Mustangs and Gators tied 1-1 at Mustang Stadium as neither lost ground in the Class 5A, District 5 and Sunshine Athletic Conference races.

Little can be gleaned from their first meeting this season, however. Mitchell (6-0-2) was without three starters, including two defenders who don't return from suspensions until Saturday.

Land O'Lakes (7-0-1) was without goalkeeper Shannon Aitken, a stalwart last season for the state champions. She was in Raleigh, N.C., for a club tournament.

"The one thing I think I learned is that watching the game, those are definitely the two best teams in Pasco County," Mustangs coach Karl Kukec said, "and probably two of the best teams in Florida. I think it was a great game to watch.

"We both had our chances. That's the way the game goes.

Land O'Lakes had more chances to win, however.

The Gators dominated the first 20 minutes, testing goalkeeper Lauren Hudson twice between the eighth and 12th minutes then scoring in the 18th minute to take a 1-0 lead.

Hudson made a diving block of Savannah Gorman's shot to the near post, but Emily Arthur knocked in the rebound, kicking it high into the center.

The Mustangs perked up in the last 15 minutes, but junior Brittany Sprunt, making her first varsity start in place of Aitken, twice made diving body blocks to separate the ball from a charging Kate Slaughter.

In the 50th minute, Mitchell's Lauren Schenk attempted a 30-footer, sending it to the far post and just past the reach of Sprunt. But the ball rolled a foot shy of the post.

Mitchell tied it in the 63rd minute, when Schenk raced past Aleisha Peterson and launched an 18-footer to the far post. From there, Hudson withstood a furious late flurry by Land O'Lakes, twice grabbing the ball off the head of Grace Weatherford.

Gators coach Vicky King said Aitken's absence didn't affect the outcome.

"I think we showed that we're not as bad as everybody thinks we're going to be," she said. "People tell their teams that we lost 10 seniors; that we're awful. We hear things like that. But we still have a solid team."

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]


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