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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Mitchell Outlasts Countryside

NEW PORT RICHEY - Marisa Russo had practiced the shot before. She knew what she was going to do if she got the chance. With 1:45 elapsed in overtime, the Mitchell sophomore got her chance. With Russo camped out at the 18-yard line, with her back to the goal, Morgan Shellenberger sent a perfect pass to Russo, who wheeled and sent the ball into the right corner of the goal to give Mitchell a 2-1 overtime victory against Countryside to advance to the Class 6A-Region 2 final Friday at Melbourne. "I was so nervous before the overtime started, my hands were shaking," said Russo, who accounted for both of Mitchell's goals. "But I told the team, 'We're not losing to this team.' We had worked so hard and come so far. We're on a 13-game unbeaten streak, and it was on our home field. That was our last home game this season and we wanted it so much." The win puts Mitchell in the regional final for the first time as a 6A school. The Mustangs (21-3-2) lost in the 5A regional final in 2005.
"Marisa Russo is deadly if she gets her foot on the ball," Mitchell coach Karl Kukec said. "I told everybody during the break that we had to score. We had to shoot the ball." It didn't start well for Mitchell. In the first two minutes of the game, Thea Linkfield received a perfect pass from Tanya Bawkins, and Linkfield split the Mitchell defenders to give the Cougars an 1-0 lead. The goal seemed to give Mitchell a spark, as the Mustangs dominated the rest of the half, outshooting Countryside (12-7-1) 8-1. . Russo tied it on an unassisted goal from 30 yards away in the 16th minute. "I thought it was a good game," said Countryside coach Rob Saltz. "I felt Mitchell won the first half and we won the second half. You never know when it's a 'golden goal' what's going to happen." It's the third meeting between the Class 6A-District 7 opponents. Countryside won the first meeting 1-0 and Mitchell won in the district final 1-0. The loss in the regular season to the Cougars (Nov. 27) is the last time the Mustangs lost a game.

Reporter Rick Harmon can be reached at (813) 259-7341 or [email protected]

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