Region soccer: Mitchell 7, Winter Haven 1
TRINITY — Held out for two weeks due to concussion protocol, Mitchell sophomore striker Aja Graham checked into Thursday’s Class 4A region quarterfinal with 12 minutes left in the first half. One minute later, she made her presence felt, taking a Gianna D’Amico free kick and making it 4-1. Graham wound up scoring a hat trick en route to a 7-1 thrashing of visiting Winter Haven.
The Mustangs (19-2) wasted no time getting on the board. In just the first minute, a deep ball from Gabrielle Zeigler found the feet of Alise Singletary for a close shave with the Blue Devil keeper. Just five minutes in, USF commit Sabrina Wagner worked into the 18-yard box, dodged one defender and shot just inside of another in pursuit and found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Just four minutes later, Wagner drove all the way down to the near post but crossed the ball to Kendra Hoffman, who made it 2-0. The Blue Devils (15-3-4) struck back with a goal by Hanna Montoya but the margin was short-lived. With 16 minutes to play in the first half, Wagner played a corner kick short and Hoffman blasted a shot low, near-post, to make it 3-1.
Minutes later, Graham checked in and made it 4-1. Then with seven minutes left in the half, Graham hit another to make it 5-1 heading into halftime.
The Mustangs made great passes through the midfield and stayed on the Blue Devil half. The verbal communication between the Mustangs was crisp and it showed in the great rhythm they played with. Coach Karl Kukec was virtually silent on the sideline.
“It’s their game,” Kukec said. “As a coach, you work with them in practice, you do the lineup but at their skill level, they know what to do.”
Wagner and Graham nearly hooked up for a goal early in the second half and it took just 12 minutes for Graham to complete her hat trick with a shot to the lower 90 that made it 6-1. After the second-half water break, Kukec elected to play his reserves and again got all 22 players on the field.
With 10 minutes to go, Singletary slipped a ball past the Blue Devil keeper to knot the final score at 7-1.
“I’m very excited to be back. I want us to win more so we can play more together,” Graham said. “I’ve been practicing with the track team (while out with the concussion) so I could get back into rhythm and stay in shape.”