WESLEY CHAPEL — Though Wiregrass Ranch knocked off Mitchell for a district championship, Tuesday's rematch in the region semifinals was considered a pretty even matchup. But on 50-50 balls it was all Mitchell, and as a result the Mustangs rolled to a 5-1 victory.
Mitchell (22-3-1) will play at Melbourne (21-1-1) Friday night.
"Tonight was the definition of rising to the occasion," said Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus, adding that he "didn't have to say much" about the 2-1 defeat to Wiregrass on Jan. 24 because his players took care of that themselves.
C.J. Kirtley scored twice for Mitchell, which pushed to a 3-0 halftime lead and fought off a brief Bulls uprising, answering Matt Bradshaw's goal 50 seconds into the second half with Kirtley's score three minutes later.
As was the case on all but one of Mitchell's goals, Kirtley's knockout blow was produced by a Mustang winning a one-on-one battle. In this case Brady Friedman took the ball away from a Mitchell defender inside the penalty box, then had the wherewithal to see Kirtley trailing on the play.
"None of us are selfish. You have to make that decision to pass or shoot," Friedman said. "We took control early tonight, and whoever does that the quickest usually ends up winning."
Mitchell's first goal came on a well-devised short corner kick, where the ball was dropped back for a charging, uncovered Nathan Hayes. He drove it into the goal mouth for Jordan Koos to redirect home in the 15th minute.
The next two scores were cases of first Mico Petrovich, then Kirtley simply outworking defenders for the ball. Both shots were good too, Wiregrass Ranch goalie Alex Cypriano looking frozen as the ball rolled past him. That captured the dazed feeling Wiregrass had, but the Bulls gathered themselves, and Sean Sourk and Chris Faddoul nearly scored late in the half.
At the break Wiregrass coach David Wilson went to a 3-5-2 alignment that paid immediate dividends when Andy Hippley, who poured out hustling runs down the left wing all night, crossed to Bradshaw for a header.
"We did exactly what we wanted to coming out of the locker room. I thought we had a chance," Bradshaw said.
But when Kirtley answered for a 4-1 lead, Wilson said "That was it. …We give it right back and that's just too much to come back from."
Mitchell's final goal came from Matt Nelson. The Mustangs held leading Bulls scorer Bryce Wilson (28 goals) to just one shot, a well-wide free kick in the closing minutes. Hayes was a rock on defense.
Wiregrass Ranch finished with all eight seniors on the field, a nod by Coach Wilson to their efforts.
"We've got a good core coming back next year," said Hippley, a junior. "We wish Mitchell well at Melbourne. That'll be a good game."