NEW PORT RICHEY — Through pockets of thick fog it was clear this was a brutal rivalry.
Bodies bounced, crunched and crashed into one another, leaving more than one girl wincing in agony.
If you didn't see the hit, you certainly heard it.
The intensity between River Ridge and Land O'Lakes came down to one thing: the Class 4A, District 8 tournament title. The teams met for the fifth consecutive title match Friday with the Gators playing the usual underdog role.
In the end, River Ridge supplied too much firepower en route to a 3-1 win for its fifth consecutive title, all against Land O'Lakes. The Royal Knights will host Mitchell and Land O'Lakes will travel to Hudson.
What does five in a row mean?
"It means the girls want it," River Ridge coach Skip Glover said. "It means they're not going to sit on it and say, 'We won the last one so were guaranteed to win it.' They earned it."
The difference proved to be a goal by Royal Knights junior Jenny Karl with less than seven minutes remaining for a 2-0 lead.
The Gators offense picked up the attack late and sophomore Alyssa Lonsway hit the crossbar in the final two minutes, then put one in with a minute left to pull Land O'Lakes (11-5-6) within one.
The offensive push was too late, and with about 10 seconds left River Ridge freshman Sarah Olin iced the game with a goal to go ahead 3-1.
"We just couldn't finish the last goal," Land O'Lakes coach Vicky King said. "Our goal was from hard work. We gave up an easy goal after that, but it was still a very good game."
The Royal Knights (17-2-1) were urged by Glover to score early, and they attacked. In the fourth minute freshman Corrine Pieterse powered a shot off her right foot across her body, sending the ball in the upper right corner for a 1-0 lead.
"That's an unbelievable angle," King said. "That hurt us early that they scored. It was even in between; we just couldn't finish."
Gators keeper Tara Marshall made 13 saves and did her best to keep Land O'Lakes in the game.
The teams took their familiar places in the trophy presentation.
"We work really hard for it and we train for it," Karl said of the five consecutive titles. "We definitely deserve it."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.