WINTER HAVEN — The Blue Devils had the home-field advantage Tuesday night. Mitchell had an undefeated record. But it was anyone’s game, even through the first half.
The Mustangs’ footwork finally gave them the advantage they needed to win 4-1 and advance to the Class 4A region finals.
“It was determination,” said coach Karl Kukec, of what won the game for Mitchell. “Winter Haven is a good team.”
The Blue Devils took an early lead in the first half. Mitchell’s Balea Schumacher scored in the 38th minute to tie at 1 going into halftime.
Kukec said a narrow field with poor playing conditions contributed to the Mustangs’ lethargic style of play in the first.
“I think it just took us a half to adjust,” he said, “But we dominated in the second half.”
Though she didn’t score, Danielle Gottwik controlled the midfield throughout the last 40 minutes, keeping the Blue Devils on their own side of the field. Mitchell keeper Erica Disbrow rarely saw the ball, finishing with six saves.
The Mustangs (24-0) pulled ahead 2-1 in the 52nd minute. Angelica Stege lobbed the ball in off an assist from Sabrina Wagner.
The Blue Devils were finally able to push through Mitchell’s midfield with 16:22 remaining, but Disbrow caught a solid kick against her chest to keep her team ahead.
Gottwik came close to scoring with less than six minutes left, but a tangle of Mustangs and Blue Devils resulted in a blown whistle.
The Mustangs were granted a corner kick. Noah Stokes headed the ball to Casey Bruno, who tapped it past Winter Haven’s keeper.
The Mustangs weren’t finished, and neither was Bruno. With less than a minute left, she dribbled the ball to the line and edged it past the defense again, bringing the score to 4-1.
The Mustangs host defending state champion Melbourne on Friday. Melbourne (18-0) shut out Viera 2-0 to advance.
“We just basically have to bring our best game, or we will not pull through,” Kukec said. “It’s going to be a clash.”
Photo courtesy of the Ledger.