By Scott Lockwood, SunCoast Sports
For a game that is played on such a big pitch, it may seem a little strange that a game of soccer could come down to just a scant couple of inches.
And if anyone knows about that game of inches during Thursday night’s District 4A-11 battle between Venice and Charlotte, it would be Venice’s Sarah Dalton.
After missing several shots by just a few ticks of the ruler to the left, right and even the top of the net, it was Dalton’s goal in the 72nd minute that broke a tie and gave the Indians a 3-2 win over the Tarpons at Powell-Davis Stadium.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for the Tarpons (5-6-1, 2-4-1) early on when Venice (10-4, 7-1) scored just 90 seconds into the contest. Dalton found her twin sister Hannah with a pass over the middle, and Hannah Dalton did the rest by beating Charlotte keeper Frenchie Gaudemer on the play.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with my sister and we just connect really well when we’re together,” Sarah Dalton said.
Sarah Dalton found the back of the net at the 15-minute mark with a goal that seemed to put Venice firmly in control. That’s when Charlotte’s own twin duo of Caitlyn and Brooke Lowery made their presence known over the middle of the field.
The speedy duo often clogged up Venice passing lanes, and Caitlyn Lowery’s breakaway goal in the 28th minute put Charlotte back in the game.
The Lowery twins struck again in the 50th minute when Brooke Lowery put in a deflection off a shot that bounced off Venice keeper Emilee Barrett into the side of the net on a 2-on-1 breakaway to knot the game up at two goals apiece.
“That chemistry is always there when people have played together for a long time. Being in the womb together up till now is an added bonus,” Charlotte coach Amanda Carr said. “I wanted to try something completely different on the field tonight and it worked. Whatever happened on the field tonight with those girls was incredible to watch.”
Venice continued to miss wide and high by the narrowest of margins on most of their 10 shots on net in the second half. That changed when Sarah Dalton, who had three shots miss by what amounted to less than 12 inches combined, took a pass from Kat Jordan down the right sideline. Dalton sprinted past the Tarpons’ defense and beat Gaudemer for what would ultimately be the game-winner in the 72nd minute.
“All those misses kind of get into your head, and it just keeps getting worse and worse,” Dalton said. “Kat sent a perfect through-ball to me and I got a good touch on it…and I just scored.”
Venice finishes the district portion of the season at 7-1. They currently hold the top spot in the race for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming district tournament over North Port, which plays Charlotte after the holiday break.
“I’m proud of how the girls played,” Venice coach Gary Bolyard said. “We’ve overcome some major injuries and the girls have kept battling. We’ve had some reserves come in and play big. Our first goal is to get that top seed.”
Carr said she had to make some defensive adjustments due to various physical ailments among her team, which is ready for some time to heal over the holiday break.
“We’re at the point in the season with two games a week and practices that we have some nagging injuries,” she said. “We’re going to try and stop the injuries and make sure our girls are 100 percent ready to go for districts.”