Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

Girls region soccer: Sophomore comes through for Land O'Lakes

LAND O'LAKES — As Victoria Cannata walked to the line for a first-half penalty kick on a frigid Thursday night, she could feel the nerves building.

Though it was only the sixth minute in a Class 3A region quarterfinal, the Land O'Lakes sophomore knew the fate of her team's season rested on her right foot.

Despite the first attempt being waved off, Cannata didn't break under the pressure. After a deep breath, she took three steps and fired the ball toward the right side of the net, past Hudson goalkeeper Brittany Wilkins to give Land O'Lakes a lead it would not relinquish in a 2-0 win.

"I realized she was playing to the right, so she was going to jump off her right foot to spring to the left," said Cannata, whose Gators travel to Nature Coast on Tuesday. "I just relaxed, kept my composure and hit it in the back of the net."

Land O'Lakes (24-1) dominated the first 40 minutes, outshooting Hudson 7-1. But the Gators failed to score on two good opportunities off corner kicks, which left the door open for the Cobras to nab the equalizer.

They nearly did. In the 43rd minute, Hudson's Dominique Cirnigliaro, who was playing in a cast after fracturing her right wrist in the district final, blasted a free kick that clanged off the crossbar.

The Cobras (21-6-1) barely threatened again. Land O'Lakes used the momentum to put it away on a cross from Cannata that found Samantha Epifanio's waiting head in the 62nd minute.

"Three inches lower, that ball goes in and it's a totally different second half," Hudson coach Stephen Jones said. "You don't want to take anything away from them. They were technically strong, they were solid all game and they made very few errors.

"Sometimes that's just the way it goes."

3A: Sharks have Seahawks' number

BROOKSVILLE — With both Nature Coast and Sunlake returning to the postseason for consecutive seasons, only one would make a trip to the sweet 16.

Thursday night in the Class 3A region quarterfinals, Nature Coast shut out the Seahawks 3-0 to stamp its ticket to the next round.

"We weren't as consistent as I'd like us to be," Nature Coast coach Lisa Masserio said. "We showed spurts (Thursday night), but the girls are going to have to be a little more focused (in the next round)."

The victory makes it three straight years that the Sharks (20-3-1) have won at least one game in the state playoffs. The win also continued a tough slide for Sunlake (16-5-3) in similar circumstances. The Seahawks have been shut out the past two seasons in the first round. The program is 0-6 against Nature Coast, being outscored 37-0.

It took 17 minutes for Nature Coast to finally crack into the scoring column. Kendal Worden lobbed a touch pass over the top to Jayna Tyler. Tyler lined a shot past Seahawks keeper Landon Carter (four saves). Worden also assisted on every other Sharks' goal, giving her a team-leading 14.

"Even though she's only a freshman, Jayna and I clicked almost immediately," Worden said. "I just do the best I can to create for my teammates."

Sunlake dominated time of possession, getting off 15 shots to only eight for the home team. But Nature Coast keeper Samantha Oliveira completed her 12th shutout of the campaign by making 10 saves, including a flurry in the second half.

The Sharks pulled away with a stellar goal from Hailey LaLande, her 26th of the year, and a second from Tyler, her 16th.

Derek J. LaRiviere, Times correspondent

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