By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — When Tuesday’s tri-scrimmage at Charlotte High School ended one thing was pretty clear: All three girls high school soccer teams in Charlotte County appear to be very evenly matched.
Port Charlotte, Lemon Bay and Charlotte faced one another once in 40-minute scrimmages and all three played competitively in their matches.
Charlotte and Port Charlotte each left the night with a win and a tie, but it was the Tarpons who got the best of the Pirates in a 1-0 victory.
Caitlyn Lowery was the Tarpons’ standout, scoring both of their goals. She scored on an assist from her sister, Brooke, in Charlotte’s opening match against Lemon Bay, and then later on a penalty kick against Port Charlotte.
Lowery’s goal against the Manta Rays was one for the photo gallery. She dribbled right at the top of the penalty box in traffic before sending the ball back left along the turf, speeding past goalkeeper Alexandra Gassman.
“She’s definitely an impact player and so is her twin sister in the back,” Charlotte coach Amanda Carr said. “She’s coming forward more and we’re training the back half to be able to read that so that when she does they’re prepared to handle that.”
Charlotte goalkeeper Cheyenne Gaudermer also had a solid night in the net, finishing with four saves against the Manta Rays and six against the Pirates. She only surrendered a goal on a free kick to Lemon Bay’s Summer Rusher in stoppage time that prevented the Tarpons from sweeping the evening. Overall, Carr was happy with her team’s performances in her first-ever scrimmage as coach.
“I was very pleased with both matches,” she said. “What I thought was super interesting was that they progressively got better as a unit. Of course, I made some changes with certain people at certain positions and some people played in positions they’ve never played in before but I was like, ‘hey, let’s just go out there and try it and that’s what this (scrimmage) is for, and we’re going to alter that as we move forward throughout the season.”
Rusher’s goal felt like a sigh of relief. The senior had been in a scoring drought in club play and had four other shots saved by Gaudermer before finally breaking through on a free kick from just outside the penalty box and set up after Madison Ragazzone was tripped.
“That one felt really good,” Rusher said. “It was really frustrating, but once one goes in I know the floodgates will open and hopefully get some more.”
Lemon Bay outshot Port Charlotte 9-7 in the opening match of the night but couldn’t break through on the scoreboard against goalkeeper Grace Stec, who had three saves. The Manta Rays also hung with the Tarpons in their next match minutes later, only getting outshot 9-8 despite Charlotte having fresh legs.
“I was actually pleasantly pleased with it,” Lemon Bay coach Katie Cooker. “I thought our possession was really good. We made a lot of opportunities. We definitely created more opportunities and the fact that we were unlucky as far as getting it in the net, that stuff can be worked on.”
Alden Goucher scored the Pirates’ lone goal of the night unassisted in the 31st minute against the Manta Rays. Stec continued to play well in the goal against the Tarpons in the final match of the night despite surrendering a penalty kick, saving seven of Charlotte’s 11 shots.
“Alden had that left footer (against Lemon Bay) and it was a beauty,” Port Charlotte coach Chip Stec said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can do the rest of the year. I think (Grace) played extremely well. She didn’t make any mistakes so that’s pretty much all you can ask of your goalkeeper.”
“Both games were pretty even on both sides. I think we possessed the ball really well today but that’s just the way the ball rolls sometimes.”