By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
VENICE — It was the biggest save of Kayla Gordon-Somers’ career.
And the biggest in the history of North Port High School girls soccer.
With the Bobcats clinging to a one-goal lead in the 73rd minute, Gordon-Somers leapt to her right and knocked away a penalty kick by Venice’s Sarah Dalton before falling on the ball for the save. The Bobcats then held off the Indians over the final seven minutes — and thanks to a late goal by AD Troche — went on to win the District 4A-11 championship 4-2 for the team’s first district title in school history.
“It was more of a guess, but I tried to watch her feet to see which side it was going,” said Gordon-Somers, a senior who had tears in her eyes while holding onto the championship trophy. “I just did it. The adrenaline was rushing and I just took my chances and went right. And it was right.”
It was a wild finish for the Bobcats, who played the final 16 minutes a player down after Augusta Purvis was given a red card for cursing in the 64th minute. Sam Freitas and Hayley Royer each scored first-half goals for the Bobcats while Troche scored twice in the second half, with her first goal putting North Port ahead 3-0 in the 49th minute.
But a goal by Dalton in the 53rd minute and another by Mason Schilling in the 59th turned this one into a nail-biter.
‘We were beating ourselves there in the second half. We had foul after foul after foul, which gave them opportunities. We couldn’t seem the clear the ball out of the backfield so hats off to them,” North Port coach Bill Callan said. “They came out with a great game plan. They went really aggressive in the second half with pretty much everybody that I know on their team and it was a good battle.”
North Port outshot Venice 18-14 but dominated early, outshooting the Indians 12-2 in the first half to take a 2-0 lead into the break. Freitas got the Bobcats (11-5) on the board by knocking in a rebound off of Royer’s free kick in the 29th minute before Royer scored on a penalty kick less than three minutes later.
Momentum carried over into the second half as Troche’s first goal was a banger that she drilled from about 25 yards out that was out of the reach of Venice goalkeeper Samantha Hoffman, who finished with 12 saves.
But, despite being down three starters — Bailey Chagnon, Alexis Weaver and Kat Jordan — the Indians (13-6-1) fought back.
A penalty set up Venice’s first goal, with Dalton drilling a free kick from 35 yards out just over the outstretched arms of Gordon-Somers, who finished with four saves. Freshman Mason Schilling added another six minutes later on a breakaway to make the score 3-2.
Then a handball by Lisa Botelho just inside the penalty box in the 73rd minute gave Venice a great chance to tie the game, but Gordon-Somers saved the day.
“There was a thought to switch her out because she let two goals in earlier but then I went with my gut and said, ‘You know what? Let’s just keep her in, it’ll pay off down the road.’ And she made that great save there,” Callan said. “Sarah Dalton took the penalty kick and she is a deadly accurate penalty kicker, so my hat’s off to (Gordon-Somers). That’s why she is carrying the trophy right now.”
North Port will host next Thursday’s regional quarterfinal against Estero while Venice will travel to Fort Myers.