By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA – Charlotte High School’s girls soccer team spent a large portion of Monday’s practice working on penalty kicks.
It’s a good thing because the Tarpons needed one late to knock off Palmetto in the District 4A-11 quarterfinals.
Caitlyn Lowery’s penalty kick in the 71st minute was the only goal of the night as Charlotte defeated Palmetto 1-0 to advance to Wednesday night’s district semifinal at Venice. The Tigers suffered an unfortunate break when a loose ball bounced up over Abby Hamm’s shoulder and deflected off her hand just inside the penalty box.
The handball infraction gave Lowery a chance to break the stalemate and she delivered, striking the ball into the left side of the net past Palmetto goalkeeper Morgan Collins to finally put the Tarpons on top.
“We didn’t practice [penalty kicks] all season because they don’t exist in the season so why practice them, you know? So we had them doing PKs and we did a lot of PKs [Monday],” Charlotte coach Amanda Carr said. “Even myself and the assistant coach, we got in there as goalkeepers to let them keep shooting…they shot probably five or six PKs. We simulated how a PK would be – it’s quiet, you’re on the line, make a decision and put one in the back of the net so I guess we were prepared.”
Charlotte outshot Palmetto 13-7 on the night, with most of those attempts coming off Lowery’s foot. Collins thwarted Lowery’s attack throughout the night, finishing with seven saves, but couldn’t reach her low penalty kick.
“I was just making sure it went in so we could just settle down and end the game for a win,” Lowery said.
“This team stayed calm and we finished the goal.”
Palmetto had one last chance to tie the match on the game’s final possession, but Alexandra Mercer’s corner kick from the left side sailed over everyone and out of bounds to end the contest.
Tuesday night’s match was very different than the teams’ first two meetings, which Charlotte won by a combined score of 11-6. Palmetto adjusted to Charlotte’s attack by using a 4-3-3 formation instead of a 4-2-3-1 to try and stop Lowery and company.
And it nearly worked.
“We put an extra defender down there because [Lowery] is good. We knew that, she hurt us last time and I think we did a great job of neutralizing them,” Palmetto coach Thomas Garvey said. “A fluky bounce and that’s what it was. I’m proud of them. They fought, they deserve better but that’s the game. That’s why we love it.”