By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
NORTH FORT MYERS – Lemon Bay High School girls soccer goalkeeper Alex Gassman was caked in dirt and mud, a vivid reminder of the kind of night she had to endure.
In a game that could have put the Manta Rays in the thick of the District 3A-13 race, they instead were blown out by an always tough North Fort Myers team, which overcame a slow start to post a 7-1 victory Tuesday at Moody Field.
And it could have been a lot worse were it not for Gassman, who made countless big saves as the Red Knights peppered her with shots, especially in the second half when they outshot Lemon Bay 20-1.
Lemon Bay coach Katie Cooke said her team played well in spite of the score, especially in the first 15 minutes when they went toe-to-toe with the Red Knights.
“Gassman was a field player who had to play goal. This is only her fourth game in goal and she did great. Hope Robson had a tremendous game at center mid,” Cooke said. “In the second half, the fatigue set in and you could tell the fitness wasn’t there.”
In the early minutes, the Red Knights were trying a new formation that took a while for them to get the hang of, and once they did, the goals came.
Tori Kowalczyk scored her first of two goals in the 15th minute to put the Red Knights on the board, off a nice pass from Rachel Horan. Moments later, Gassman had a two-man break where she had to commit to someone. Hailey Turner took a Kowalczyk pass and booted it in for a 2-0 lead, and Taylor Metzger added to that in the 35th minute to make it 3-0 at the half.
North Fort Myers (9-1-1, 3-0) dominated the second half as Kowalczyk, Amanda Dasilvia scored and Emilee Hauser scored twice in a two-minute span late.
Lemon Bay’s only shot of the second half resulted in their only goal in a battle of Summers. Summer Rusher beat North Fort Myers goalkeeper Summer Ackerson in the 68th minute on a penalty kick.
North Fort Myers coach Nick Erickson said he went to a three-person defense in the first half to see how the team responded. There was nothing to stop his team after halftime except themselves.
“When we play our game, we generate a lot of shots. We could have finished a few more, and we’ll look at the tape. There were some opportunities for us and with districts and regionals we need to capitalize,” Erickson said.