When the Venice girls soccer team last played Braden River just over a week ago, the Lady Indians did everything they could to hold on to a 1-0 win and the district title.
Friday night, when the teams met one final time for the 4A Region-3 semifinals at Powell-Davis Stadium, Venice made sure it wouldn’t be a nail-biter.
The Lady Indians (19-0-1) seized control of the game in the opening minutes, scoring three times in the first four minutes as they would go on to win, 4-0, and advance to the 4A Region-3 Championship.
“We definitely came out again, just like on Tuesday (against Fort Myers), just super aggressive and in your face, ready to go,” Venice associate head coach Lynley Hilligoss said. “We had a lot of opportunities in that district final game against them that we didn’t really capitalize on, so we worked on finishing set plays over the week and we capitalized on those.”
Indians junior midfielder Kat Jordan opened the game by contorting her right leg at just the right angle to poke in a shot off a corner kick in the third minute.
Just 21 seconds later, a foul on Braden River in the box set up Jordan with a penalty kick that she cashed in for a quick 2-0 lead.
One minute after that, the Pirates goalkeeper couldn’t cleanly corral a shot on goal and sophomore Kiki Slattery was there to clean up the missed save with another Venice score.
“It was really exciting. That was so fun,” Jordan said of scoring two quick goals to put her team up early. “I’d definitely say it’s a mentality thing for us. We go out there and all the girls want to win.”
Though the opening four minutes of the game were jam-packed with action, the rest of the match resembled something closer to Venice’s one-goal victory in the district championship as neither team scored for the rest of the half.
The Pirates, expending much of their energy trying to slow down the Indians, registered four shots and just two shots on goal all game — both coming off free kicks. Venice on the other hand, finished with 20 shots with 15 shots on goal.
“I don’t think we got the same opportunities that we did early because they held a man centrally that was in the face of Kat and Rachel Dalton,” Hilligoss said. “That kind of eased us back a little bit, but once we figured that out, we made our adjustments accordingly and started the attacking process all over again.
Leading 3-0 through halftime and the water break in the second half, Jordan put Braden River away for good — and finished off her hat trick — when she headed in a goal off a well-placed corner kick from Slattery with 16 minutes to go.
With the win, Venice stays undefeated on the season and advances to the 4A Region-3 Championship game, to be played on Tuesday at Powell-Davis Stadium at 7 p.m against St. Petersburg (15-3-1).
If the Indians can win that game, they’ll find themselves just two wins away from an undefeated season and a state championship.
“I’m really confident in this team,” Jordan said of Venice, which has surrendered no goals in the playoffs. “All these girls are amazing. They work so hard, so I’m really excited to see what happens.”