By Bruce Robbins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — Natalie Oliver’s goal near the end of the first half spoiled the debut of new North Port girls soccer coach Bill Callan, as Riverview went on to defeat the Bobcats, 1-0, in the season opener for both teams Tuesday night.
From 30 yards out, Oliver lofted a shot that just got over the outstretched arms of North Port goalkeeper Kayla Gordon-Somers and into the back of the net, and that was all the Rams would need, as the Bobcats were unable to convert on several scoring chances.
Still, Callan said there were several positives to take away from the game. “We’re just starting to get into sync. We didn’t do a pre-season scrimmage and we probably should have. I think we progressed in the last 30 minutes and did a lot better.”
The Bobcats best chance to score in the first half came in the 30th minute. With the game still scoreless, Ram goalie Katherine Gresham stopped a point blank shot by Arianne Guerra. North Port turned up the pressure in the second half, but Gresham denied AD Troche from close range in the 74th minute. Seconds later, Abey Nottingham’s shot from the left side went just wide of the right side of the net.
“We changed formations. We got a little more aggressive up top and switched people around,” Callan said. “The girls are still trying to learn each other’s personalities right now. They’re coming together from several different teams, and when you do that, it takes a few games to get in sync. But once they do, we’ll be all right.”
Coming off a 12-5-1 season a year ago, and a first place regular season finish in District 4A-11, the expectations are high for this year’s team. But Callan pointed out that last year’s team also lost to Riverview in the first week of the season.
“We played outstanding and we had opportunities,” Callan said. “Just today, the other team hustled a little bit more in the first half and they got one in, so that was the difference. We had a couple that probably should have gone in, but we couldn’t finish in the final third, and that’s the difference in the game sometimes.”