HOLIDAY — About the only way Mitchell could lose was to play itself.
And in facing Melbourne — an undefeated, dominant team that happens to be not only the No. 2-ranked team in the state, but the defending Class 4A state champion — the No. 4-ranked Mustangs found a near mirror image.
“Those two teams are just fantastic,” Mustangs coach Karl Kukec said. “Those are high-level players on both sides, and I still think the state champion will come out of this game.”
It took two overtimes and penalty kicks, but Melbourne knocked off Mitchell 1-0 (5-4 PKs) in a 4A region final that lived up to its hype by being a knock-down, down-to-the-wire, evenly matched game. It was a matchup worthy of a state championship game.
“What do you say to them? I’m proud of them,” Kukec said. “They had a near-perfect season. They did everything right, and when you get to this level of teams, it’s going to be one-goal games and someone has to lose. ... To lose this way, after being perfect and never being beat in regulation ... it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking for them.”
The Mustangs (24-1) were looking to make their second straight state semifinal, but they ran into the Bulldogs (21-0), who were as dominant as Mitchell, which outscored opponents 134-7 this season.
After 100 scoreless minutes in regulation and overtime, with both teams having superb chances to put away the game, the teams lined up for penalty kicks. Mitchell sent Sabrina Wagner, Noah Stokes, Danielle Gottwik, Balea Schumacher and Amanda Hayes for its five shots, and all scored except Gottwik, who was denied by Melbourne keeper Riley Greer.
Mitchell senior keeper Erica Disbrow, who had 13 saves in the game and 17 shutouts this season, allowed the Bulldogs to score all five of their PKs, but was comforted by her whole team after the loss.
“I just told her that she did nothing wrong, and I didn’t want her to think this was her fault, because it’s a team game,” Mitchell defender and FAU commitment Gina Davis said. “This may be the last game for 10 of us (seniors), but I can’t even say I’m sad, because I’m so proud of everyone and how they played. It’s not great we lost, but we can’t be disappointed in this season.”
Greer came up with eight saves, but Mitchell had the best chance to end it in the first sudden-death overtime when Wagner, who finished the season with a team-high 39 goals, was nearly able to get a shot past Greer, though it was just wide right.