TRINITY — For 26 games, Mitchell kept its postgame celebrations subdued.
After Tuesday’s Class 3A region final, the Mustangs finally let loose.
Mitchell roared and rushed its homefield after a 6-0 throttling of Nature Coast ended a decade of close calls and sealed the program’s first trip to the final four.
“They achieved everything you could ask for,” Mustangs coach Karl Kukec said.
Mitchell (26-0-1) will try to top achieve even more Friday when it hosts defending champion Ponte Vedra in the state semifinals.
After losing its previous two region championship games by one goal and falling to River Ridge in double overtime in last year’s region semifinals, the Mustangs punched their long-awaited ticket to state thanks to Taylor Meek’s hat trick and a dominant defense.
The scoring began when Danielle Misener streaked down the right side in the 14th minute and hit Meek on a cross to give Mitchell an early lead.
“I really tried hard to finish every opportunity that I had because I didn’t know if I was going to get another one,” Meek said after her fifth hat trick of the winter.
Her opportunities kept coming. The junior forward fooled the defense with a one-on-one move with 13 minutes left in the first half to extend Mitchell’s lead to 2-0 and added her 30th goal of the year with 7:16 left.
“You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time,” Kukec said. “She got the timing of the runs right and took advantage of it.”
Three days after holding Land O’Lakes without a second-half shot, the Mustangs didn’t allow Nature Coast (18-3-1) to get a good look until the final 16 minutes. Goalkeeper Erica Disbrow stoned a free kick from Silvana Paonessa and blocked another Paonessa shot with three minutes remaining to seal Mitchell’s third consecutive shutout.
“They had no distinct weaknesses that we could exploit,” Sharks coach Lisa Masserio said after the best run in NCT history ended. “We had a lot of difficulty handling that amount of pressure.”
The Mustangs closed the game with three goals in the final five minutes. Amanda Hayes had an easy tap-in for her 33rd goal of the year. Olivia Batshon and Balea Schumacher chipped in goals in the final minute to kick off a celebration 10 years in the making.