LAND O’LAKES — Sunlake had four days to savor its win over rival Land O’Lakes for the district title. Now it has three days to think about a winner-take-all rematch.
The Seahawks blew past Gulf 4-1 at home Tuesday in the Class 3A region quarterfinal, setting up Friday’s region semifinal with Land O’Lakes on Friday.
“I’m just counting down the minutes until Friday,” Seahawks freshman Connor Spencer said.
Spencer helped his team get there with a two-goal effort. He had an open look at the far side of the net in the 23rd minute and knocked the ball into the goal. He added another in the closing minutes when he stole a ball that wasn’t cleared and tapped it into the net.
Sunlake (16-4-3) dominated from the start with a sliding goal by Jared Landry in the eighth minute and put the game out of reach with a rocket from Connor Gilboy early in the second half.
Gulf (11-10-1) didn’t get its first shot until midway through the second half. Its only goal came in the 61st minute on a cross from Tyler Brown to Jason Perez.
“We were excited to be here,” Gulf coach Steve Emerson said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Sunlake is hoping its journey is just beginning, despite a performance that had coach Sam Koleduk looking for more.
He said his team came was still thinking about last week’s 3-2 win over Land O’Lakes and looked past Gulf after beating the Buccaneers 4-0 earlier in the year. That resulted in missed chances and failed finishes, thanks to 10 saves by Gulf’s Kevin Thompson.
“But all in all at this point, you just survive and move on,” Koleduk said.
And Koleduk’s team moves on to host the Gators at 7 p.m. Friday with a trip to the elite eight at stake. The teams split the previous three meetings, 1-1-1.
“Hopefully,” Koleduk said, “we’ll turn it on Friday.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.