Facing the first of a tough two-game stretch, Land O'Lakes knew its conference and district title hopes could ride on two games.
The Gators rose to the first challenge Wednesday with a 4-1 victory at Wesley Chapel. Next is Sunshine Athletic Conference rival Mitchell on Monday in their only meeting of the season.
Land O'Lakes (9-1) came out strong with a pressure attack that created numerous scoring opportunities. The Gators took a 2-0 lead within a two-minute span in the first half.
Gators midfielder Dominic Cutrofello knocked in a corner kick that found him through a minefield of defenders for a 1-0 lead. Then senior Marc Musto lit a cannon from 35 yards out, clearing the second goal over a diving Jon Heiser. Wildcats coach Brian Dorkowski pulled Heiser in favor of junior Kyle Funkhouses after the second goal. Funkhouses should start tonight against Gulf, Dorkowski said.
The Gators had a chance to put the game away when forward Felix Soto fired a shot into the hands of Funkhouses. "We missed that opportunity," coach Mark Pearson said. "I thought that kind of kept them in the game."
Wesley Chapel (4-1-1) broke through just before halftime on a goal by senior Vince Lopez.
Land O'Lakes fought off a strong second-half surge and took advantage of a pair of corner kicks to go up 4-1. Gators senior Louis Falcon launched all three corner kicks, the final two knocked in by sophomore Sebastian Garcia and Cutrofello.
"I think the forwards would tell you there should be more," Pearson said. "Louis should have had another one toward the end there. ...(Dominic's) experience is starting to show. He's at another level when he wants to be."