FORT LAUDERDALE - Emotions ran the gamut for the Gators after Wednesday's state semifinal loss to eight-time state champion St. Thomas Aquinas.
Coach Vicky King shed tears, laughed and later spoke in a shaky voice during her postgame interviews. Goalkeeper Shannon Aitken took Wednesday's 5-0 loss the hardest.
"I just thought we were going to do better," said Aitken, tears steaming down her cheeks after she was shelled by 29 shots and made 14 saves.
Aitken's dismay, however, was offset by teammates Grace Weatherford, Colleen Raison and Sara Brinkley, each of whom joked about the Raiders' dominance and the Gators' surprising return to the state final four.
"We're disappointed that we lost, but not (disappointed) in our season," King said. "It's an experience just to be here. Sometimes you're just a little shellshocked to be in the final four."
Colleen Raison appreciated the opportunity for another state playoff game. The senior defender was felled in the first minute of last season's state championship and did not return from an ACL injury until midway through this season.
She shrugged off ending her high school career on a loss, saying, "Good enough for me. It's a lot farther than I thought we were going to get."
"This is so much fun," Weatherford said of the road trip to the final four, noting the team gets in some beach time today before returning to watch the final between St. Thomas Aquinas and Satellite Beach Satellite, a 2-0 winner over Palm Harbor University.
Brinkley, who had two of Land O'Lakes' three shots against the Raiders, took a good-natured ribbing from teammates, who said former Gator Stacy Bishop (the county's all-time leading scorer who scored the winner in last year's state final) would not have missed on a chance to score.
"At least she wouldn't have shanked them," Brinkley said.
As the mood lightened, King put things in perspective.
"It matters, but it's over now," King said. "You know what's really important to this team? Where are we going to eat next?"