BROOKSVILLE - With Tuesday night's first half nearly spent, Land O' Lakes senior Catherine Gray had just enough time to thread a throw-in inside the scoring box.
Lady Gators fans were glad as she connected with the team's leading scorer, sophomore striker Victoria Cannata.
Cannata tucked in a shot - her team-best 27th goal - just inside the nearside post with 15 seconds remaining in the opening stanza for the difference in Land O' Lakes' 1-0 win over host Nature Coast Technical in a Class 3A, Region II semifinal at Shark Tank Stadium.
With the win, the 3A-8 champion Lady Gators climbed to 25-1 behind their seventh straight shutout.
Junior goalkeeper Lauren Arrabito barely broke a sweat earning her 15th shutout of the season while facing two NCT (20-3-2) shots. She chipped in one save in the final minute of the match.
In an evenly matched tilt, the loss snapped the 3A-7 champion Lady Sharks' 12-match non-losing streak and an opportunity to reset the Hernando County record for wins in a season (21).
Lady Sharks senior goalie Samantha Oliveira kept the hosts in the match despite facing 14 shots, with seven saves.
Land O' Lakes will tangle with Palm Coast-Matanzas on Friday for the 3A-II title. Matanazas blanked host Leesburg on Tuesday night, 7-0.
On the verge of tears, NCT's fifth-year skipper Lisa Masserio maintained her composure enough to praise both sides.
"I feel we had a hard time figuring out our marking situations," she said. "In spurts, our pressure was good, but we gave them too many chances. Give Land O' Lakes credit, they dictated tempo the entire match.
"When we would put some passes together, we couldn't put the finishing touches on a goal.
"I'm very proud of these girls," added Maserio. "We accomplished three regional semifinals for three straight years. Lots of the credit belongs to these seniors for raising up the whole team up."
"I just wish we would have taken care of some of those early chances," admitted the 27th-year Land O' Lakes skipper Vicky King. "Our goal was big. To go up just before the half gave us momentum, but we knew we couldn't let them get back in the game."
On the game's difference, "We did a much better job of winning the first balls," declared King. "I thought we dominated the match, but their goalkeeper played big. They challenged us from the first whistle to the last - that hasn't happened to us much all year."
King credited senior midfielder Brooke Silvest for stabilizing things in the middle of the pitch.
"I thought Brooke played well, particularly in the second half," noted King. "She stepped up her play in the second half. This match meant a lot to her. She really performed."
"I thought I played pretty good," described the 17-year-old Silvest. "Nature Coast was very aggressive."
On the key to the match, "Our goal was huge," she said. "I really thought we were going into PKs. Nature Coast has some solid players up top. We had a lot of chances to score, but they blocked a lot."
"I was looking for Torrie (Cannata) the whole way," recalled the 17-year-old Gray of her 19th assist. "Really I was just hoping we could squeeze out one more shot before the half."
Gray gave kudos to her team's defense, saying, "I thought Brooke (Silvest) held the center, she helped balance us out back there. This was such a big win because we haven't gotten this far in a while."
"The goal was huge," described the 16-year-old Cannata. "We needed to get something going before the half ended.
"Give Nature Coast credit, physically they competed really well," she added. "This win gives us an opportunity for a regional championship. Tonight, our defense was awesome."
Land O' Lakes 1, Nature Coast Technical 0
LOL 1 0 -- 1
NCT 0 0 -- 0
Goals - LOL: Cannata.
Assists - LOL: Gray.
Shots on goal - LOL: 14; NCT: 2.
Saves - LOL: Arrabito (1); NCT: Oliveira (7).
Yellow cards - NCT Aponte (unsporting behavior); LOL: Cannata (unsporting behavior).
Blue cards - none. Red cards - none.
Records - Land O' Lakes (25-1-0), Nature Coast Technical (20-3-2).
Class 3A, Region II
NCT 3, Sunlake 0
Land O' Lakes 2, Hudson 0
Land O' Lakes 1, NCT 0
Palm Coast-Matanzas 7, Leesburg 0
Land O' Lakes vs. Matanzas