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TRINITY — Mitchell’s most impressive statistic isn’t its seven goals allowed all winter or its streak of three consecutive playoff shutouts.
It’s this: In its past three halves against district champions Land O’Lakes and Nature Coast, the Mustangs have allowed only two shots.
That unbreakable possession game has helped the North Suncoast’s top team cruise into tonight’s home Class 3A state semifinal matchup against Ponte Vedra.
“Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do,” coach Karl Kukec said. “They have their priorities on the attack. They have their priorities on defense. They work like a well-oiled engine.”
And they’ve powered the undefeated Mustangs (26-0-1) farther than they’ve ever gone. Mitchell lost its previous two region finals before blowing past Nature Coast with Tuesday’s 6-0 victory to earn the first final four appearance by a Pasco County team since Land O’Lakes (2004).
But the Mustangs haven’t faced a team like tonight’s opponent. Ponte Vedra has won two of the past four state championships and is in the final four for the fourth time in five seasons.
If Mitchell can get past the Sharks, it will be because of its crisp passes and stubborn refusal to give up the ball.
The Mustangs controlled the ball so well in last week’s 3-0 win over Land O’Lakes that the Gators didn’t attempt a shot in the second half. Nature Coast suffered for 64 minutes before finally getting a good look at the goal.
In its past 10 games — nine shutouts and a 4-1 win over Hudson — Mitchell has needed only 27 saves from standout goalkeeper Erica Disbrow.
“We try to play good possession because that’s really how you’re supposed to play soccer,” junior forward Taylor Meek said.
It helps that Mitchell’s roster is loaded and capable of relying on technical skill as much as speed.
Junior midfielder Danielle Gottwik has already orally committed to UConn, while sophomore Amanda Hayes (33 goals, nine assists) and Gaither transfer Meek (30 goals, seven assists) have become two of the North Suncoast’s leading scorers.
And the rare times when opponents get off a shot, Disbrow has been effective in goal (81 saves, 21 shutouts).
“She’s one of the best in the state,” junior midfielder Balea Schumacher said. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have the shutouts that we have and we wouldn’t be here.”
Schumacher credited another reason for Mitchell’s defensive dominance: experience.
Although only two of the Mustangs’ top players — Leslie Fallon and Danielle Misener — are seniors, the team’s lineup is loaded with polished club players. On days where Mitchell doesn’t practice as a team, most of their players work out with their other squads to stay in shape and prepare themselves for big games.
“We’ve been in these types of situations before,” Schumacher said.
But never one like what they’ll face tonight.