LAND O’LAKES — Whether Mitchell was still harping on last week’s loss to rival River Ridge the district title game or thinking about a possible rematch this week, the Mustangs seemed out of sorts Tuesday.
Until a goal from Land O’Lakes ignited them.
Danielle Gottwik’s deflection in the 57th minute gave the Mustangs a 2-1 win over Land O’Lakes in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
“The River Ridge loss was still in the back of their minds,” Mitchell coach Karl Kukec said.
And it probably will be until the Mustangs (20-2-3) face River Ridge on Friday in the region semifinal. The Royal Knights knocked off Wesley Chapel in another 3A region quarterfinal.
Mitchell got plenty of scoring chances early but couldn’t capitalize against goalkeeper Ariana Bailey and the Gators (14-7-3). The Mustangs had four shots in the first 13 minutes, and Bailey stoned them all.
“We didn’t find a real rhythm in the game,” Kukec said. “We had some periods where we just couldn’t put it together.”
Mitchell broke through in the 14th minute. Freshman striker Amanda Hayes rebounded her own shot and curved a blast past Bailey for her 19th goal of the year.
Land O’Lakes continued to fight behind 10 saves from Bailey and an offense that didn’t quit. Senior captain Arielle Le-Tran rocketed a cross from the corner of the field that bent into the side of the goal for her eighth goal of the season. It was only the second goal Mitchell has allowed since Dec. 8.
“We’ll hold our heads high,” Gators coach Vicky King said.
The goal sparked Mitchell to keep attacking.
“Just pick up the intensity,” Gottwik said.
Brooke Snoll knocked a cross from the left side in the 57th minute that sailed to Gottwik. The sophomore midfielder battled a defender, and her foot kissed the ball and trickled it into the net for the winner.
Mitchell’s win sets up the fourth meeting of the year between the Mustangs and River Ridge. Their past two playoff contests have been decided by penalty kicks.
Staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.