By Scott Lockwood, SunCoast Sports
When the North Port and Venice girls soccer team kicked off their second meeting of the season Thursday night at Powell-Davis Stadium, several Indian starters that played key roles in Venice’s victory over the Bobcats last month were on the bench wearing walking boots or nursing other various injuries.
North Port was able to capitalize on Venice’s young group, getting two early goals and cruising to a 4-1 victory that put the two teams in a tie atop the District 4A-11 standings.
“We knew they were missing some players, but they still played an outstanding game,” North Port head coach Bill Callan said. “(Venice coach Gary Bolyard) knows all of my players and I know all of his players. It’s always fun when we get together…but it’s also nerve-wracking too because they play hard against each other.”
North Port controlled the ball from the opening kick and kept the ball on the Venice half of the field early. In the seventh minute North Port sophomore Abey Nottingham took a pass over the middle and fired a beautiful, arching shot that sailed just past the outstretched hands of Venice goalkeeper Sam Hoffman and into the back of the net.
“She’s an outside back and she made a good, diagonal run,” North Port coach Bill Callan said. “There was space in the center of the field and we laid the ball off to her. She saw the opportunity and she took it — and luckily it went our way.”
The Bobcats got on the board again six minutes later when Hayley Royer’s long shot rolled by Hoffman and into the corner of the net. Venice eventually scored when Kat Jordan intercepted a North Port pass and found the back of the net just before the half.
“It was hard for us because we’ve got a lot of starters that were injured,” Venice team captain Sarah Dalton said. “That definitely brought us down in the first half, but we came out strong in the second half.”
Venice came out firing in the second half, only to be turned away repeatedly by North Port keeper Kayla Gordan-Somers. At the 58-minute mark Royer and AD Troche were in a 2-on-1 play in front of the net. Royer fired across the box to Troche, who easily scored on the play.
“We played better soccer than we’ve been playing lately,” North Port coach Bill Callan said. “We were playing balls to the ground, balls to feet and moving the ball well. I think that was ultimately the difference in the game.”
North Port’s Mia Tripke scored the game’s final goal with just under a minute to play, icing the game for the Bobcats and handing Venice its first district loss of the season.
“We’re really young and we’re starting to play better together,” Dalton said. “We were down and we thought we could come back, but I think they just got in our heads.”
North Port improved to 5-5 overall and 4-1 in district play. They’ll return to action Tuesday night when they’ll host Palmetto in another district contest.
“This was a whole team effort. I’m very happy,” Callan said. “It’s always a good thing when you get near the top of the ranks. Our goal is to do well in divisional play and to get into the regionals. This team is just starting to come together.”
Venice (8-4, 5-1) will travel to Braden River for a district game on Tuesday.