TRINITY — For a district filled with competitive teams, Mitchell has made taking the top seed in 4A-8 look easy. The Mustangs improved to 13-0 Friday, clinching the No. 1 spot for the district tournament with a 3-0 win over Gaither.
How comfortable was the victory? Mitchell coach Karl Kukec rested his entire forward line for 25 minutes — in a 2-0 game.
"I don't care that we score 100 goals, I just care that we control the game," Kukec said. Mitchell did, outshooting the Cowboys 21-3.
Gaither never had possession of the ball inside the Mitchell penalty box, all three shots were from long distance, and the Cowboys had no corner kicks.
Mitchell freshman Sabrina Wagner scored her 18th this season, slipping behind the defense unmarked in the 12th minute. Taylor Meek assisted, and the connection was reversed five minutes later with Meek cutting the ball back after a Wagner cross from the left side.
Meek, again on a Wagner assist, closed the scoring with 10 minutes left.
Kukec sat Meek, Wagner and right wing Noah Stokes out of intermission and they didn't come in until 15 minutes were left. Additionally Mitchell was without two of its senior captains, Danielle Gottwick and Gina Davis, both playing in a club tournament out of state.
"We have a deep bench, and I need to know what I have if anybody gets hurt," Kukec said. He was also looking down the line. In early January Mitchell will likely be without a bulk of its starters when it plays another current unbeaten, Land O'Lakes.
The approach was a little tough on Meek, a former Cowboy.
"We have a lot good players and I'm fine with giving them time, but yes, I was glad to get back in. It was a big game for me," she said.
Meek has 17 goals. Amanda Hayes nearly scored twice in the late stages with one long blast hitting the crossbar square.
Cobras win rematch with Eagles
SPRING HILL — With revenge on their minds, Hudson's players came into Booster Stadium Friday night dictating the pace of a very physical match. The aggressiveness of the Cobras paid off as they handed Springstead its first shutout loss of the season, 2-0.
"(Springstead is) are a good opponent, very technically skilled," Hudson coach Stephen Jones said. "I was real proud of how our girls hustled and played hard to get this one."
Hudson (13-4-1, 10-2-1) vaulted past Springstead (11-2-2, 10-2-2) into second place in Class 3A, District 7. The Eagles won the first meeting 4-2, but without standout Haleigh McDuff (11 goals, 14 assists), out with a hamstring injury, the offense was a shell of its usual self.
McDuff injured her hamstring in Wednesday's win over Crystal River and dressed for Friday's contest. Though she did not start, she came in 20 minutes into the first half. After only one minute of action, she went back to the bench and did not return.
"We're not going to push it with Haleigh," Springstead coach Scott Wern said. "It's more important that she be healthy for (the district tournament) than right now."
The Cobras dominated possession, outshooting the home team 19-7. The barrage paid off when senior Dominique Cirnigliaro lined a goal just under the crossbar from 25 yards. The shot went just under the outstretched arms of Springstead goalkeeper Jenna Booth (four saves).
Hudson keeper Brittany Wilkins (three saves) did not have to deal with many shots, but her ability to come out and play the ball proved valuable.
With just under two minutes left, the Eagles were trying to push the tempo, but Cirnigliaro stole the ball from Alexis Greenstein. Unassisted, the University of West Florida commit scored her 32nd goal this season to go with 16 assists.
The physicality of the game seemed to catch Springstead off-guard. Hudson was called for numerous fouls, and was dealt two yellow cards (Brittany Cirnigliaro, Dominique Cirnigliaro).
"Soccer's always real physical," Dominique Cirnigliaro said. "We worked hard and had the right mindset to get by them."
Derek J. Lariviere, Times correspondent