NEW PORT RICHEY — For the second year in a row, River Ridge and Mitchell needed penalty kicks to decide a playoff game.
And for the second year in a row, the Royal Knights came out on top.
Sarah Olin’s free kick in the closing minutes of regulation forced overtime, and goalkeeper Lisa Jadick dominated penalty kicks to give River Ridge a 1-1 (2-0 PKs) victory and the 3A-8 district title Friday night at Ridgewood.
The Royal Knights (16-4-1) host Wesley Chapel on Tuesday, while Mitchell (19-2-3) must travel to Land O’Lakes.
“I’m speechless,” said Jadick, who had 10 saves and shut out the Mustangs in penalty kicks.
Mitchell (19-2-3) looked ready to avenge last year’s loss to River Ridge in the region quarterfinals.
Jadick dove and deflected Amanda Hayes’ shot with one hand, but Mitchell sophomore Baylor Cherry blasted the rebound into the net to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute.
But River Ridge rallied late.
“They just kept pounding,” Royal Knights coach Skip Glover said.
Eventually, they broke through.
With just over three minutes left, a handball gave Olin a free kick from 20 yards out. Olin said she occasionally blasts the ball over the goal, so she knocked it on the ground instead. A Mitchell player jumped, and the ball scooted under her and past Mitchell’s Erica Disbrow to tie the score and force overtime.
“For some reason I just knew we had it,” Olin said after scoring her team-high 28th goal of the year.
Both teams were shut out in the overtime periods, forcing another penalty-kick finish.
Jayden Eberly’s first shot hit the crossbar for Mitchell, and River Ridge’s Kendra Secrest answered with a ball that hit Disbrow before bouncing off the post and trickling into the net.
A goal from Nicole Screnock set up a do-or-die fourth penalty shot for Mitchell. The shot flew over the crossbar to give River Ridge the district crown.
“This time, at least we’re not going home,” Mustangs coach Karl Kucic said. “We’re going on.”
3A-7: Land O'Lakes leaves no doubt in shutout, earns homefield advantage
ZEPHYRHILLS — Land O’Lakes defeated Wesley Chapel 3-0 in Friday’s Class 3A, District 7 championship game, earning its eighth district title and first since its 2003 state championship run.
“It gives you homefield advantage, which is kind of nice and thinking positive that you can move through,” Land O’Lakes coach Vicky King said. “The win is what we were after. The shutout helps our defense with their confidence.”
Wesley Chapel (9-11), which set a single-season record for wins, advances to the postseason for the first time. Still, the game was bittersweet for coach Michelle Clark (a former Land O’Lakes goalkeeper and 1998 graduate) and her team.
“It’s heartbreaking in one way, but I’m proud of them,” Clark said. “This is a steppingstone for us moving in the right direction.”
Land O’Lakes (14-6-3), which finished with a 19-2 scoring advantage, controlled the tempo and it did not take long for the Gators to get on the scoreboard.
Makenzie Fish, who this season had a goal disallowed by a hand ball, dribbled down the left side before booting a 25-yard shot into the upper right corner in the second minute.
“That’s the first one that counted,” the freshman said of her first goal of the season. “It’s amazing.”
The Gators took a 2-0 halftime lead on Wesley Chapel goalkeeper Aspen Cooper’s miscue. Midway through the half, Cooper caught a shot off the foot of Alexa Satmary from the right side, but the ball slipped from her grasp and trickled across the goal line.
Arielle Le-tran closed out the scoring in the 61st minute, taking a pass from Catherine Gray at the top of the penalty box and kicking a rising shot that went in just under the crossbar.
3A-6: Stumble costs Nature Coast homefield
INVERNESS — Nature Coast’s second loss of the season came at an inopportune time, costing the Sharks a home game in the state playoffs.
Nature Coast suffered a 3-1 loss Friday night to Eustis in the Class 3A, District 6 championship match.
While the Sharks (16-2-1) had already earned their first state playoff berth, their focus was on another first — a district title.
Confidence was high after a 4-1 win at Eustis this season, but the Panthers (16-3) were missing some key players in that game.
“In the first half we had to adjust to the pace of the game,” Nature Coast coach Lisa Masserio said. “They have a very fast attack.”
Nature Coast fell behind 2-0 and looked caught off guard by the speed of Eustis’ attack. As the Sharks began to adjust things evened out, but it was too late.
Sophomore Hailey LaLande brought her team within a goal before going to the locker room by lining a direct kick over the top of the defense for her 10th goal of the season. It was also her third in the district tournament.
Despite a solid effort in the second half, Eustis tacked on one more score to put the game out of reach with just more than seven minutes remaining in regulation.
“We played somewhat intimidated at first,” Masserio said. “We made some good adjustments at halftime and were pressing for the equalizer when they scored again.”
The team refused to call its loss a product of nerves or inexperience. Heading into next week’s playoff game, the Sharks plan on being better prepared.
“I didn’t feel like nerves played a big part considering it was the district championship,” Masserio said. “It was more about who we were facing. It was impressive to me that (the girls) weren’t focused on being here for the first time.”
A-7: Bishop McLaughlin overwhelmed
The Terps scored three first-half goals to run away with the District A-7 title 7-2 Friday. Spencer Valdespino scored both goals for the Hurricanes (13-5-3), and Emily Hernandez had seven saves. Colby Maffei had a hat trick for Tampa Prep. Bishop advances to next week's Class A region quarterfinals.
Times correspondents Steve Lee and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.