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WESLEY CHAPEL -- The final margin wasn't altogether surprising, but the inexplicable part of Land O'Lakes' 6-1 victory against Wesley Chapel was the player scoring half the Gators' goals.
Senior forward Brian Bishop, who entered the game with one goal in 31/2 seasons spent primarily on defense, led the Land O'Lakes attack with three goals and two assists.
"It feels great, but as long as the team wins, I'm happy," said Bishop, who had two goals called off by fouls in a scoreless tie against River Ridge last week. "Tonight we played great as a team."
Bishop weaved through Wildcats defenders to score twice in a 2-minute span midway through the first half, adding an assist 2 minutes later on a Chris Gray goal that put the Gators ahead 4-0 just 21 minutes into the game.
The senior, moved up to forward this season because of his speed, completed the hat trick by scoring 5 minutes into the second half off sharp passing from Eric Martin.
"He's worked so hard in so many games and come up short so many times," Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson said. "He's really been creating most of the goals for Eric Martin. He's just a tireless worker and tonight he reaped the benefits of that."
The scoreboard wasn't the only area where the Gators (7-3-2) had a decided numbers advantage over the Wildcats (2-9-2). Wesley Chapel coach Tim Reardon started without three players who are injured then lost enough during the game that he finished with 11 healthy players. Land O'Lakes had enough on the bench to fill a second lineup and substituted liberally in the second half.
"The last time we played them, we played much better, but we had our full team," Reardon said of a 2-0 loss in the teams' first meeting. "In the second half tonight, we did a good job of controlling things better until they started putting their substitutes in."
Wesley Chapel goalie Gilbert Montelongo endured a busy night, recording 17 saves on 29 shots. Kyle Boerner and Dustin Collins had a comparably easy night for Land O'Lakes, facing a combined eight shots and collecting five saves. The Wildcats avoided a shutout when Trent Cooper scored on an assist from Brian Sumner with 28 minutes remaining.
Land O'Lakes is unbeaten in its last five matches, and Pearson said Wednesday night's victory was the kind he hoped to have heading into a two-week layoff during the holiday break.
"We wanted to finish this half of the year strong," Pearson said. "Now we'll actually have some time to practice after playing so many games in the past few weeks."