TRINITY — For almost as long as there has been girls soccer at Mitchell High, the Mustangs have fielded one of the area's premier goal-scoring threats.
Lauren Shank scored 173 goals from 2003 to 2006 and owns the school record for career goals.
When Shank graduated, Marisa Russo took over and scored 22 times, continuing the Mustangs' tradition of phenom strikers.
Russo, now a freshman at Florida Atlantic, finished with 108 regular-season goals and is second on the Mustangs' career scoring list.
So, the albatross-sized question mark surrounding Mitchell entering this season was: Who would replace Russo?
Coach Karl Kukec targeted junior Arielle Anahory, a technically balanced player who played a midfield, holding forward position to set up Russo last year.
"(Anahory's) mentality is probably not that of a striker," Kukec said. "She's one that's very good at creating opportunities for others and for herself. That makes her a valuable asset to our team as a whole. … But, actually, it was an easy transition."
The Eckerd-bound Anahory slid right into the goal-scoring role for Mitchell and established herself as one of the premier forwards on the North Suncoast. With 25 goals and seven assists during the regular season, Anahory ranks third in the area for goals and tied for third in points.
Because of her attacking prowess, the Mustangs (17-2-1) are a safe pick to make a deep postseason run.
Anahory switched to forward for her under-18 club team at Hillsborough County United before her senior year at Mitchell, which made for a smooth transition on the high school team. But she still has a willingness to help the Mustangs wherever she's needed.
"This is one of the things that I like so much about Arielle," Kukec said. "She's fine with whatever you do. She wouldn't mind playing any position on the field. This is something that I respect a lot from her. She's not a player that feels like she's a prima donna or anything."
Anahory hasn't had to shoulder the scoring load entirely, either. Junior Shannon Estes-Larkin has 18 goals, and sophomore Danielle Gottwick has 10.
More weapons for Mitchell means more headaches for opposing teams charged with trying to stop all of them.
"Once the girls realize 'I don't have to score by myself,' it makes the whole concept so much better and the team better, especially when you talk about those top goal scorers," Kukec said. "Coaches of the other team know who those top scorers are. They're going to be marked, and it's going to be harder for them to score so it frees up another player."
Player, school G A Pts
Jenny Karl, River Ridge 38 15 91
A.J. Blount, Wiregrass Ranch 33 14 80
Arielle Anahory, Mitchell 25 7 57
Kayla Labbe, Ridgewood 23 11 57
Corrie Bexley, Bishop McLaughlin 20 11 51
Jessica Tata, River Ridge 19 11 49
S. Valdespino, Bishop McLaughlin 19 11 49
Berlin Waters, Wiregrass Ranch 17 15 49
Shannon Estes-Larkin, Mitchell 18 10 46
Brooke McKillen, Fivay 18 10 46
Logan McGee, Hudson 17 11 45
T. Maramara, Bishop McLaughlin 15 15 45
Chelsea Foster, Gulf 17 9 43
Haley Foster, Gulf 16 7 39
Ashley Gallagher, Fivay 15 8 38
Minimum nine games
Player, school GAA S SO
Brianna Friedrich, Wiregrass Ranch 0.83 35 4
Melissa Morlan, Gulf 0.97 72 6
Lisa Jadick, River Ridge 1.02 86 3
Tara Marshall, Land O'Lakes 1.09 177 10
Sandra Jozic, Mitchell 1.19 42 7
Dayton Wetherby, Wiregrass Ranch 1.37 67 5
Monica Vega, Springstead 1.38 27 4
Cheye-anne Savage, Hudson 1.53 76 6
Tuesday: Springstead (3) at Central (2), 6 p.m.; Ocala Forest (1) at Ocala West Port (4), 6; Thursday: final, 6 at West Port
The scoop: Defending district champion Springstead must travel to Central and beat the Bears to make another region tournament appearance. The Eagles and the Bears played to a 2-2 draw twice during the regular season, but Springstead was without starting goalkeeper Monica Vega for both matches. No. 1 seed Ocala Forest went unbeaten in district play this season, its only blemish a scoreless tie against Central.
4A-8 at Land O'Lakes
Monday: Zephyrhills (8) vs. Hernando (9), 7; Tuesday: Wiregrass Ranch (2) vs. Sunlake (7), 6; River Ridge (1) vs. Zephyrhills/Hernando winner, 8; Wednesday: Citrus (3) vs. Lecanto (6), 6; Land O'Lakes (4) vs. Nature Coast (5), 8; Thursday: Wiregrass Ranch/Sunlake winner vs. Citrus/Lecanto winner, 6; River Ridge/Zephyrhills-Hernando winner vs. Land O'Lakes/Nature Coast winner, 8; Friday: final, 7
The scoop: River Ridge avoided a meeting with Wiregrass Ranch or Citrus in the semifinals by earning the top seed. It will likely make the final, although Land O'Lakes and Nature Coast are capable of an upset. A potential semifinal between Wiregrass Ranch and Citrus could be the best match of the tournament. They split a pair of games during the regular season, each team winning by a goal. Keep an eye on Zephyrhills, which played all the top teams close and tied Wiregrass Ranch.
4A-7 at Mitchell
Monday: Gulf (2) vs. Wesley Chapel (7), 5; Mitchell (1) vs. Anclote (8), 7; Tuesday: Pasco (4) vs. Ridgewood (5), 5; Hudson (3) vs. Fivay (6), 7; Wednesday: Mitchell/Anclote winner vs. Pasco/Ridgewood winner, 5; Hudson/Fivay winner vs. Gulf/Wesley Chapel winner, 7; Friday: final, 7
The scoop: Mitchell and Gulf have been the best teams on the North Suncoast all season. Expect them to meet for a third time in the district final. The Mustangs and Bulls split their two regular-season matches, but Mitchell grabbed the top seed by winning a tiebreaker coin flip.
2A-9 at Indian Rocks Christian
Tuesday: Carrollwood Day (4) vs. Calvary Christian (5), 6; Thursday: Bishop McLaughlin (2) vs. Indian Rocks Christian (3), 5; Tampa Prep (1) vs. Carrollwood Day/Calvary Christian winner, 7; Friday: final, 7
The scoop: Tampa Prep and Bishop McLaughlin are the overwhelming favorites to reach the final and advance to region. The Terrapins beat the Hurricanes 6-3 on Dec. 7 and are playing their best soccer right now, having beaten Mitchell 7-2 Wednesday.