BROOKSVILLE — Despite both Land O’Lakes and Nature Coast having perennial success as North Suncoast soccer powers, Tuesday night’s Class 3A region semifinal meeting was only the sixth in history.
The Gators, who haven’t shown many flaws this season, continued their dominance, shutting out the Sharks 1-0.
“We had our opportunities, but give their keeper (Samantha Oliveira) and their defense credit,” Land O’Lakes coach Vicky King said. “They did a good job of packing it in against us to limit our attempts.”
The Sharks (20-4-1) did their best to contain what has been a ferocious Land O’Lakes offensive attack, and the plan seemed to be working as the first half wound to an end.
The scoreless contest gave Nature Coast a window of opportunity, but that window slammed shut when, with only 13 seconds remaining before the half, Catherine Gray was awarded a throw-in deep in Sharks’ territory. Gray found Victoria Cannata deep in the box, and she pivoted to beat Oliveira left for the first goal.
“That was a tough one for us to take,” Nature Coast coach Lisa Masserio said. “It was a mistake, but she got off a quick shot and made it.”
Cannata, only a sophomore, leads Land O’Lakes (25-1) with 27 goals on the season.
Despite the one-goal lead, the Gators continued to dominate possession in the second half, firing 19 total shots at Oliveira (eight saves). Nature Coast was unable to form an attack with almost of its players back in their own zone. The loss ends Oliveira’s illustrious prep career. The senior finishes with a school-record 53 shutouts, including 18 as a junior.
“We were both pretty emotional after it came to end because we’re still mourning the loss of something great,” Masserio said. “I’m so excited to see her play next year in college.”
Land O’Lakes keeper Lauren Arrabito came away with her 15th shutout of the season despite only recording two saves, one in the first 10 seconds of the second half and one in the final 10 seconds.