By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD —Lemon Bay scored twice in the opening six minutes of the game, then held on for a 2-1 victory over Port Charlotte in a District 3A-13 girls soccer matchup Friday night at Veterans Stadium.
The Manta Rays got goals from Stephanie Tieu in the fourth minute and Summer Rusher in the sixth minute to put the Pirates in an early hole.
Tieu lofted a shot from just outside the penalty box into the left corner of the net, while Rusher’s goal came from in close. Port Charlotte goalkeeper Grace Stec deflected the shot, but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
“It’s tough to come out of that hole,” Pirates coach Chip Stec said. “We scored one goal and had other opportunities in the second half. We just didn’t play well enough to win to be honest with you. It got a little chippy there at the end with a couple of yellow cards.”
Teala Brown scored for the Pirates 10 minutes into the second half to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Lemon Bay goalie Alexandra Gassman stopped the rest of the Pirates’ shots. The Mantas outshot the Pirates 23-15 and both Rusher and Hope Robson had shots bounce off the crossbar.
“We came out firing on all cylinders and were connecting where we needed to connect,” Lemon Bay coach Katie Cooke said. “We were making nice runs and then finishing. That’s what we worked on this week in practice, so it was nice to see them take it out on to the pitch with them. They were doing that well all night long, we just got unlucky on some of those pole dingers, but that’s part of the game.”
“Lemon Bay played really well the first ten minutes, but I don’t think they outplayed us the rest of the game,” Stec said. “They may have out hustled us a little bit and beat us to some 50-50 balls, but sometimes that’s the way the ball rolls.”
The win moves Lemon Bay to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in district play. Port Charlotte is now 5-4, 3-2.
“I think we settled in in the middle of the game and we started letting Port Charlotte control the pace of the game versus us pushing the game,” Cooke said. “That’s another thing we’ve been working on with the girls, not playing the other team’s game but trying to force them to play Lemon Bay soccer. But it was pretty aggressive tonight on both sides of the ball and it was a hard-fought game. Defensively, we cleaned up a lot from our last game. Marissa Nebel did a good job commanding in the back.”
Both teams continue district play next Tuesday. The Pirates will host North Fort Myers, while Lemon Bay will travel to Cape Coral.