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Gators' defense falls into hole

St. Thomas Aquinas shuts out Land O'Lakes 5-0, ending its bid to repeat as state champion.

By STEVE LEE
Published February 19, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE - Four years ago Vicky King watched as the Land O'Lakes boys soccer team lost a state semifinal to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

As coach of the Land O'Lakes girls team, the sideline view wasn't any better.

The Raiders dashed the Gators' bid for back-to-back state titles with a 5-0 win in Wednesday's Class 5A semifinal at Lockhart Stadium.

"It's tough," a teary-eyed King said afterward. "I guess when you get this far it's harder because they tried so hard.

"This is good, though. It's great for the school, great for the team."

Eight-time state champion St. Thomas Aquinas takes on Satellite Beach Satellite, a 2-0 winner over Palm Harbor University, for the title at 7:30 tonight.

The loss dropped Land O'Lakes to 0-3 overall against St. Thomas Aquinas, which has outscored the Gators 15-0 in those games.

Despite the Raiders' 29-3 shot advantage and that most of the game was played in and around the Land O'Lakes penalty box, King could not find fault with her team.

"(St. Thomas Aquinas was) a great team," King said. "We were just not quick enough in the back, and they won about 90 percent of the balls in the air. They play the ball so quickly."

The Gators were no match for the Raiders' Jennifer Boykin, Samantha Mowatt and Sarah Fetters. Boykin had her team-leading 30th goal and Mowatt scored twice, her 10th of the season accounting for the final margin.

Land O'Lakes trailed 2-0 at halftime, but two goals less than a minute apart clinched it for St. Thomas Aquinas.

Natalie Bellini had an open net when Land O'Lakes goalkeeper Shannon Aitken tried to snare Fetters' corner kick and missed. Soon after play resumed, the Raiders worked it back down into the Gators' box, and Fetters scored on a shot to the upper left corner.

Despite allowing five goals, Aitken made a handful of stellar saves. Twice she blocked point-blank shots by Mowatt.

Sara Brinkley had two shots and Grace Weatherford one for Land O'Lakes, which could not mount an offensive attack because the ball rarely crossed midfield.

The Gators' best chance came in the 56th minute when keeper Maren Dale blocked Brinkley's attempt.

"I'm pretty upset that I missed it, but it didn't happen tonight," Brinkley said. "I shanked about three (other scoring opportunities)."

[Last modified February 19, 2004, 02:00:25]


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