LAND O’LAKES — Mitchell earned a 1-0 victory over Land O’Lakes on Friday night the same way it has picked up most of its 17 wins this season.
“If you don’t get scored on, then all you need is one goal or two goals, and you’re fine,” Mustangs coach Karl Kukec said.
That’s all Mitchell (17-1-2) got against a strong Gators squad in a battle of two of Pasco County’s top teams.
The Mustangs’ only goal came in the fourth minute, when junior defender Danielle Misener’s free kick found senior captain Shannon Estes-Larkin in the penalty area. Estes-Larkin beat Land O’Lakes goalkeeper Ariana Bailey on the left side for her team-leading 19th goal.
Mitchell’s defense took over from there to complete the Mustangs’ 14th shutout of the season. The Gators (11-5-2) threatened in the first half when Mitchell failed to clear the ball, but Arielle Le-tran’s shot flew wide right.
“They play as a team,” Kukec said of a defense that has allowed only six goals all season. “They play together. It’s good communication.”
Mitchell’s crisp passes kept the Gators from creating breakaway opportunities. Land O’Lakes had only three on-target shots.
The Gators had their best scoring chance midway through the second half with a corner kick by Kelsee Larson. But senior sweeper Natalie Banks helped knock the ball away to end the threat.
“She’s been in that position for the last four years,” Kukec said, “and she knows the game, and she’s directing our defense as much as possible.”
Bailey kept Land O’Lakes close, notching seven of her 10 saves in the first 40 minutes. Her diving, one-handed deflection of a blast from Erica Disbrow saved a goal in the first half.
Staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com.