NEW PORT RICHEY — Even with injuries and offensive problems pestering Land O’Lakes through the first seven games of the season, the Gators were able to overcome their early-season struggles for a 2-1 victory over previously undefeated River Ridge on Tuesday night.
“This is a great rivalry,” Gators coach Vicky King said. “It is always a close game and we truly had to work tonight.”
The Gators (2-2-4) were on the attack early and often, as they held the advantage in shots on goal (21-14) and corner kicks (6-0). Land O’Lakes struck first on Joelle Stewart’s goal with 20:58 left in the first half, but less than five minutes later River Ridge (6-1-1) notched its first goal as junior Jessica Tata tied the game.
In the second half, Land O’Lakes turned up the pressure and scored with 23:13 left when senior forward Ari Azzopardi got ahead of the Knights’ defense then passed it off to forward Lailoni Kailimai for the score.
The Knights tried valiantly to stage the tying goal but to no avail and go into the Thanksgiving break with their first loss.
“We will see them again, it is a long season,” King said.
Andy Villamarzo, Times correspondent