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5A semifinal: LOL foiled by Freedom once again

TAMPA — Some of these Land O'Lakes seniors will one day tell their kids how they ruled the soccer fields of Pasco County.

They'll talk of their dominance in 46 wins in two seasons.

Inevitably, some will ask about the five losses and how any team could possibly defeat such a juggernaut.

That's when they'll remember Freedom, the only team to do it twice.

The Patriots knocked Land O'Lakes out of the playoffs Tuesday with a solid 6-2 victory. It was the second time in two season Freedom ended the Gators' season.

"Tonight we got beat for the first time in a very long time," Gators coach Mark Pearson said. "We gave up six goals for the first time in (a long time). We didn't do anything we talked about doing in the game."

Land O'Lakes (22-3-2) walked away from last year's 1-0 loss in the region quarterfinal believing the loss was a fluke.

Freedom (15-2-5) left no doubt Tuesday night.

The Patriots were led by junior Taylor Nalls, who scored the first three Freedom goals for the second hat trick of his high school career. The first came off some nifty passing sparked by senior Deion Jones. He worked the ball to senior Manny Martes, who fed Nalls for the 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.

Then in the 22nd minute, Gators keeper Alex Spock made a diving save on a penalty kick that on any other night might have sparked a comeback.

Instead, Nalls made it 2-0 in the 35th minute, knocking home a rebound to head into halftime.

Land O'Lakes scored in the 64th minute on a penalty kick by Dominic Cutrofello. Then trailing 5-1, senior Felix Soto floated one in for the final goal of his career.

The Gators ended their 11th playoff appearance in 12 years with their first region semifinal berth since 2005 when they reached the region final.

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5A semifinal: LOL foiled by Freedom once again 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 10:52pm]
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