When the Venice and Charlotte girls soccer teams met to play the 4A District-11 semifinal game on Tuesday night, each team came in with drastically different hopes.
For the undefeated Lady Indians (16-0-1), the goal was simply to play a good game and stay healthy for the district championship — resting several key players. Charlotte, on the other hand, wanted to make sure it made Venice earn its trip to the district finals.
Though the Tarpons held the Indians off the scoreboard for the first 12 minutes, a Maddy Krause goal off a cross from Victoria Gaona opened the floodgates as Venice rolled to a 7-0 win at Powell-Davis Stadium.
“We definitely wanted to sit some of our consistent players to get some rest because we know we have a battle coming up on Thursday,” Venice associate head coach Lynley Hilligoss said. “We found out it’s Braden River we’ll be facing and they’re a very physical team, so I wanted to get most of our starters some rest tonight because they’re gonna have to battle on Thursday night.”
Regular starters Kat Jordan, Olivia Fair and Ashton Pennell took the entire night off and most of the other starters were pulled from the game as the Indians’ lead continued to grow.
At one point near the end of the match, eight of the 11 Venice players on the field had spent some time at the junior varsity level this season.
Even with backups playing and some Indians playing out of their typical positions, Venice controlled the ball for most of the night. Following Krause’s goal, junior forward Mason Schilling had two highlight reel goals — sidestepping the Charlotte goalkeeper for a timely poke and weaving through three Tarpons defenders for another score.
Charlotte was able to hold Venice to just those three first-half goals, but its lack of an offensive attack made a comeback almost impossible.
A shot by Tarpons player Micah Epling in the 29th minute looked to have a chance of going in the net before the ball hooked to the left of the goal. Following that first attempt, Charlotte wouldn’t take another shot for the rest of the game.
But despite the lack of offense, Charlotte completed its goal of taking the undefeated Indians to a full 80 minutes without a mercy-rule finish.
“I always explain to our girls that they have to have pride in what they do,” Charlotte coach Amanda Carr said. “So when we got down to the end, I said to them, ‘Look, run the clock. Make Venice play the full 80 minutes.’ Because when someone sees a score and it’s 8-0, they think, ‘Oh, it’s a mercy rule.’ But here when it’s 7-0, it’s like, ‘Wow, Charlotte took them the whole 80.’
“So that instilled some pride in what they do and it keeps the tradition of Charlotte High — to be good people and have good sportsmanship.”
Some more regular Indians contributors had their chance to shine in the second half as Krause added a second goal, Rachel Dalton scored from about 20 yards out and Kiki Slattery lofted a penalty kick over the goalkeeper’s head. Then to top it off, Slattery scored off a deflection on a shot by Gaona with time ticking down.
With Venice’s victory and Braden River’s overtime win over North Port, the Indians and Pirates will meet once more in a rematch of last year’s 4A District-11 Championship game.
The Indians lost that game, 3-1, and haven’t forgotten the sting of defeat.
“I think the chemistry on this team is at a totally different level than it was last year,” Hilligoss said. “Everybody truly gets along on the field and off the field. It’s a different mentality. They want it this year.
“They want to prove to everyone that Venice is the team to beat. They’ve put in the work and they’ve put in the time. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls in what they’ve accomplished thus far, and I cannot wait for Thursday night.”