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Gators hold off Mustang rally

It was a fight between two powerhouse teams. And while the game threatened to stall at times, it certainly did not disappoint.

But in the end Land O'Lakes outlasted Mitchell, winning 3-2 in a Class 5A, District 5 match between two of the county's best.

The Gators struck first on senior Grace Weatherford's goal with 24 minutes left in the first half. Less than 10 minutes later freshman Amanda Goble gave Land O'Lakes a cushion with a shot that sailed over Mustang goalkeeper Lauren Hudson.

But the fun was just getting started.

A fog began rolling in in the second half, and another Land O'Lakes goal, a one-timer from forward Sara Brinkley to Kristine Budd took the Mustangs crowd further out of the game.

But the Mustangs, led by Lauren Schenk, fought way back with a Schenk goal; a header off a free kick.

Five minutes later Schenk shot the ball again. The ball hit the side post, landed on the goal line and sat there.

"I thought it was going wide," she said. "I didn't know I was capable of doing something like that."

But what made it do that? Was it the wind? Bad luck?

"I would have to say Karma," Schenk said.

Schenk was disappointed with the loss but said her team put up a good fight.

"I'm just happy we came back with those two goals," she said. "It was a hard loss, but we came back together as a team, and that makes it feel like heaven."

Schenk responded to the odd play with a goal that brought the game close. But the stubborn Gators defense kept the Mustangs from another scoring chance.

Though Land O'Lakes was in control for much of the first half, coach Vicky King knew Mitchell would put up a struggle.

"For us a 2-0 lead is the worst lead to have, because one goal splits it in half," she said. "We just made some defensive errors and let them back in the game."

One of the goals for the team, King said, was to play an entire game consistently. But the win against a district rival still feels good.

"It was a meaningful game. This is (a Sunshine Athletic Conference) game, and this also was the one that decided the No. 1 seed in the district," she said. "So that puts us in a good position."