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Mustangs pull out a thriller

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Mitchell swore it would not overlook River Ridge entering Tuesday night's Class 5A, District 5 semifinal.

River Ridge had its sights set, too. Set on an upset of Pasco County's second-best team.

The Royal Knights almost pulled it off, taking a one goal lead in the 46th minute, then taking the Mustangs into four overtimes until penalty kicks decided it.

It was then that Mitchell won a thrilling marathon of a game 3-2, 4-2 on penalty kicks at James Valentine Stadium.

"I've never been prouder of any team I've ever coached," River Ridge coach Skip Glover said.

"I've never seen a team play any harder. I might be a little biased, but these are my girls."

It was a thriller from the opening minute.

The Mustangs' Michelle Kukec gave her a team a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute, sending a penalty kick to her right. But the Royal Knights tied it in the 34th minute, as Sarah Slusak's penalty kick also went right and in the net.

Slusak gave her team the lead in the 46th minute of the second half. She took a breakaway toward the Mitchell net and drove in a shot at the near post.

Mustangs keeper Lauren Hudson dove for the ball but it went underneath her, rolling into the net.

The third-seeded Knights (10-6-2) were desperate to keep the lead, and goalkeeper Marisa Moe was clutch most of the night. But Kate Slaughter, who had been threatening all night, finally took a breakaway, beat the defender and scored on a shot to the far post, tying it in the 65th minute.

A collision in front of the net forced Moe to the sideline with a hyperextended left knee.

But she came back to play all four 5-minute overtime periods.

"She's tough," Glover said. "I would probably have to knock her out to keep her out of those overtimes."

But when it came down to penalty kicks it was second-seeded Mitchell (20-1-2) and its keeper, Hudson, who relished the challenge.

She succeeded, blocking kicks by River Ridge's Colleen Jones and Kelly Newton. The Mustangs' Amanda Graham, Carly Mitchell, Michelle Kukec and Lauren Schenk all made penalty kicks.

"They played with so much heart," Hudson said of River Ridge. "They did amazing."

Mitchell advances to Friday's 7 p.m. district final to take on top-seeded Land O'Lakes.

"Thrilling?" said Mustangs coach Karl Kukec. "It wasn't thrilling. It was scary."