By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — What a difference a day of practice makes.
Two days removed from a one-goal loss to Cardinal Mooney, Lemon Bay High School’s girls soccer team responded with a bang. Summer Rusher scored four goals and added an assist to lead the Manta Rays to an 8-0 victory over the Sailors at home in a match that ended in the 67th minute due to the mercy rule.
Angelina Beach also scored two goals for Lemon Bay while Stephanie Tieu and Hope Robson added one apiece. Lemon Bay coach Katie Cooke wanted the Manta Rays (8-8) to be more aggressive at the net Thursday night and they responded in resounding fashion, outshooting the winless Sailors (0-15-2) 40-9 to climb back to .500.
“Surprisingly, it’s not the best I’ve ever seen them play but it’s pretty close,” Cooke said. “They were finally communicating really well tonight. They were possessing the ball well and doing some of those things we weren’t doing on Tuesday night. They seemed a little more hungrier in front of the net and they seemed to be crashing the goal a lot more so I was pretty happy with that.”
Tieu started the rout in the fourth minute with a goal thanks to an assist from Marissa Nebel and Beach later doubled the lead in the 24th minute when Rusher sent a long pass forward to the senior, who sent it into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
Rusher, who had three near-goals early in the first half, finally struck for her first in the 40th minute when she corralled a throw-in from Erica Mulvaney and kicked it by Sarasota goalkeeper Victoria Martin to send the Manta Rays into halftime with a 3-0 lead.
“Finally. Finally. It felt good to get the ball back in the net again, for sure,” said Rusher of her first goal.
After scoring three goals on 21 shots in the first half, the Manta Rays upped the pressure in the second half with five goals — three by Rusher — on 10 shots in less than 27 minutes. Martin did all she could to stop the barrage, finishing with 16 saves, but Lemon Bay’s attack was just too much to defend.
Robson, who received the game’s lone yellow card, scored in the 52nd minute to make it 4-0 before Rusher took over. Rusher scored her second goal in the 59th minute and then tallied a hat trick with another score in the 64th minute when her shot slapped off of Martin’s hand and into the net.
Less than two minutes later, Rusher struck again to extend Lemon Bay’s lead to 7-0. Rusher and Cooke both attributed Wednesday’s practice to the team’s success Thursday night.
“We focused on running patterns, being able to get the balls down in the corners and sending crosses, which they also did better in the second half, which I think provided us more opportunities to crash the net,” Cooke said. “Summer and [assistant] coach Jason [Cooke] was able to spend some time after practice one-on-one working on her shots outside the box and she scored two or three tonight outside the box, so I think some of that one-on-one attention with her really helped her focus in on what she could better.”
Rusher almost had her fifth goal in the 67th minute but it bounced off of the post, Luckily for her, Beach was there to clean up the rebound with a header for her second goal to finish off the victory.
Lemon Bay goalkeeper Alexandra Gassman didn’t see much action in the net but defended it when she did, finishing with seven saves.
“After Tuesday we worked hard on Wednesday to build off of our mistakes and it clicked tonight. We got the goals and got the win,” Rusher said.