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Gators turn up pressure, knock off Royal Knights

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.

Berkeley Prep 1, Tampa Prep 0: Tuesday's mid-afternoon downpour was a test for Berkeley Prep's new soccer field, as well as the Buccaneers' clamp-down, fast-paced game.

As the Bucs faced rival Tampa Prep on Tuesday evening, passes died in the water, players kicked into puddles and Berkeley Prep escaped with a win.

The game's only goal came on Berkeley midfielder Rebecca Hurst's shot in the 28th minute — a shot that hit off the foot of a Tampa Prep defender and lofted over the head of Terrapins keeper Jordan Hatton.

"We want the ball at our feet and we want to move the ball," Berkeley coach Ken Roberts said. "So anytime it slows down or skips, players are reaching for the ball instead of keeping it in front. Overall, I think we handled it well."

Berkeley (4-3-1) dominated the attack, rarely allowing Tampa Prep (6-2-1) any opportunity for offense. And while the Bucs had a handful of scoring opportunities, the Terrapins defense clamped down.

"I walk away from it as a victory for us," Tampa Prep coach Cindy Schofield said. "I think it's a moral victory for us. It's a great confidence boost."

Tampa Prep was without its leading scorer, sophomore Colby Maffei, who was called up to participate in the ODP Thanksgiving Interregional tournament this week in Coral Springs. While Maffei's absence left Tampa Prep without her 15 goals and three assists, the Terps were fine with playing defense.

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

Land O'Lakes 2
River Ridge 1

Gators turn up pressure, knock off Royal Knights 11/24/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 11:46pm]
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