ZEPHYRHILLS — There were nine teams in the Class 3A, District 8 tournament field but barely any doubt the last two standing would be Land O’Lakes and Sunlake.
Sunlake pulled away from sixth-seeded Wesley Chapel for a 6-1 semifinal victory Wednesday, while earlier top-seeded Land O’Lakes cruised to an 8-0 win over River Ridge that ended after 46 minutes because of the mercy rule.
So now the Seahawks (16-3-3) and Gators (22-1) will meet at 7 p.m. Friday in the championship game. Though both teams are headed to the playoffs as expected, on the line will be homefield advantage for at least one round. Sunlake has yet to beat the Gators, losing 2-1 and 1-0.
“That’s a big thing for us because we get a lot of great support at home,” Gators coach Vicky King said.
As for the clinic her team put on Wednesday, King lauded the Gators’ speed and focus. They scored twice in the first four minutes, and it was 4-0 by the first water break.
Brooke Silvest scored three goals, Haley Eckel two, and Victoria Cannata had a goal and two assists. Samantha Epifanio and Molly Grahs also had goals. The final four scores came in a span of just 10 minutes surrounding halftime.
“I didn’t think we’d end it that early,” said Silvest, whose goals took a similar path, her carrying the ball from near midfield before ripping a shot near the top of the penalty box.
River Ridge (10-11) scored seven goals against Gulf on Tuesday but barely sniffed the penalty area against the Gators, who prevented 28-goal scorer Darien Davis’ crafty touches from progressing into chances.
In the nightcap, Wesley Chapel kept the game scoreless until the final three minutes of the first half. That’s when Sunlake’s Maddisen Traver unloaded a 25-yarder past goalie Sydney Reeves. Moments later Riley Morrison directed in Reagan Goiran’s corner kick.
After the Wildcats (7-9-1) made it interesting on Kelly Vester’s goal, the Seahawks answered with three in 10 minutes by Dariana Tirado, Grace Bunch and Kim Devoe. Wildcats defender Jade Torres, who suffered a separated shoulder a week ago against Hudson, played the entire game holding her left arm across her chest.
“She’s one you wish you could clone,” Wesley Chapel coach Michelle Clark said.