LAND O’ LAKES — The third time simply wasn’t the charm for Lecanto on Friday night.
An otherwise stellar season ended for the Panthers in a Region 5A-2 semifinal at the one place they simply couldn’t find any success: Land O’ Lakes.
Making its third visit to the Gators’ home field this season, Lecanto rallied from an early deficit but couldn’t get out in front, ultimately absorbing a 4-2 defeat.
“Land O’ Lakes is a good team,” Lecanto head coach Kevin Towne said. “We were down two goals. We came back and tied it. We didn’t quit. We played hard the second half. The girls, they played hard. We run into a tough team. Our district and our region is definitely one of the tougher ones to get out.
“There’s no excuse. They played tough, we played tough and the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s what it is.”
The Panthers (18-5) had just faced the Gators (15-5-1) exactly a week earlier at that same stadium, dropping the District 5A-6 final, 6-3. They also lost at Land O’ Lakes on Dec. 13, 2-0.
“There’s great players on both teams, and when that happens you just never know,” Towne said “We’ll regroup and get better over the summer, and go at it again.”
The Gators made an early impression in this one, going up 1-0 just eight minutes into the match. Taylor Denney appeared to score off a pass from Jordan Green, though Denney later told her bench she never touched the ball and it was changed to an own goal.
In the blink of an eye out of the first water break in the 20th minute, Jordyn Keene cashed in off an assist by Avery Wild, building a 2-0 advantage.
Lecanto finally got on the board in the 23rd minute thanks to a goal by Ava Rice, assisted by Kaitie Van Cleef.
Then in the 33rd minute, the Panthers knotted it up when Mallory Mushlit scored with an assist by Rice.
“I think the seniors, and not just the seniors but the leadership, they did not want the season to end,” Towne said. “We played with this team three times. The first time it was 0-0 at the half, they beat us 2-0. The second time we were up 3-1, they beat us 6-3. This time we came from behind and played hard with them. So we played well with them. It’s just a tough matchup for us.”
Avery Wild’s unassisted goal in the 55th minute broke the tie, and Annika Richardson scored on a free kick less than three minutes later to once again create a two-goal margin.
This time it stuck, as Land O’ Lakes outshot the Panthers, 25-7, leaving Ryann Stephens to make 22 saves for Lecanto.
“I think the girls, anytime you can get to the regional semis or the Sweet 16, you’ve accomplished something,” Towne said. “There were only 16 teams left, and we were one of them, in 5A. You can’t take nothing away from that. We had a great year.”
Maclay knocks out Warriors in semifinal
The Maclay Marauders lived up to their nickname on Friday night with an 8-0 Class 2A-Region 1 girls soccer semifinal victory over Seven Rivers Christian.
The second-seeded Marauders (14-2-2) advance to Tuesday’s regional championship match against No. 1 seed St. Johns Country Day, while the sixth-seeded Warriors ended a stellar season with a 16-3 record.
“Really happy with the season we’ve had,” Seven Rivers head coach Rob McDougal said. “The team reached new heights this year winning a regional game. It’s just another awesome step forward for the program. This loss doesn’t take away from that at all.”