Though the wins have been hard to come by in the early going of the 2018-19 season, the young Venice boys’ soccer team continues to take big steps towards a brighter future.
The Indians went on the road Friday night and took on traditional power Lakewood Ranch and came home with 2-1 setback in a non-district match. The loss drops the Venice record to 1-5 while the Mustangs advanced to 6-0.
Lakewood Ranch looked like it was ready for a big offensive night when it scored in the first 90 seconds of the contest. The Mustangs’ Wilmer Yanez gave Venice goalkeeper Stefan Slavov little chance when he drove a shot into the wide part of the net. Yanez was set up by Alex Thompson with a pinpoint pass to the middle of the field.
Despite the difficult start, Venice clamped down on its defensive play. Indians co-captain, Andrew Davis was forced into playing fullback in the absence of Ryan Jordan. Later in the game, he moved to a forward position in an attempt to score the tying goal.
“I’m pleased with the way we played these guys, we always know they’re going to be tough,” said Davis. “They kept playing balls over the top over and over again, so we just sat deep and took their chances away.”
And, so it went throughout the bulk of the first half. Much of the play was in the Indians defensive zone, but Lakewood Ranch had fits trying to solve the Venice defensive strategy. Slavov was required to make a few tough saves, but mostly the defense kept the shots from reaching him.
“I really wasn’t sure what to expect from these guys tonight, but the way our guys held up mentally was impressive. That’s only going to mean positive stuff as we continue to get better,” said Indians assistant coach Greg Atkin.
As they scored in the opening minutes of the first half, the Mustangs struck again in the waning minutes of the half. Thompson converted on a pass from Travis Freeman to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Goals were hard to come by in the second half. The Indians had more scoring opportunities and continued their strong defensive play. Sophomore Frederick Mergos finally broke the ice for Venice when he booted a long goal into the right corner of the net in the 32nd minute.
“Garrett (Wheeler) took on a man and beat him and gave it back to me, right at my feet,” said Mergos. “I took it with the right side of my foot and chipped it right in the top part of the net. It was a really nice set up.”
The Indians picked up the offensive pressure over the final eight minutes and had a couple of shots on goal, but couldn’t flex the net.
The Indians return home on Tuesday, Dec. 4, for their next contest. District rival Charlotte will visit Powell-Davis Stadium at 7 p.m.