The Venice Indians boys soccer team has a lot to look forward to in years to come, but their 2018-19 season came to a hard-fought end at Palmetto’s Harllee Stadium on Wednesday night.
After turning back Venice 1-0, the Palmetto Tigers (9-5-4) advanced to the District 4A-11 Championship game, to be played on Friday.
A wind chill in the mid 40s was enough to sting the crowd but the two teams were oblivious to the cold as they battled through 80 minutes of aggressive soccer. Though the Tigers had the majority of scoring chances, the game could have gone either way as Venice had plenty of opportunities, too.
“It really took the guys most of the year just to get used to the physicality of playing guys that were two years older, 4 inches taller, 25 pounds heavier,” said Venice associate head coach Greg Atkin of a team dominated by sophomores. “But with all the difficulties we’ve had this year and our win-loss record (5-14-1) not looking so pretty, these guys never gave up on themselves.
“All year, every day, that’s how they handled themselves. I’m extremely proud of them for that.”
The loss included a controversy similar to what occurred with the Lady Indians final regular-season game.
To many observers, the Indians’ Connor Anderson scored a goal in the opening moments of the second half.
Anderson launched a boot off the second-half kick off from nearly midfield that brought the Venice fans to their feet. To them it looked as though Anderson had found the net. The referees disagreed, however, and Venice remained in a 1-0 hole.
The Tigers had notched their lone tally in the 30th minute. Palmetto’s Luke Pizano centered a ball to the feet of Caleb Nunemaker, who was parked right at the Indians’ doorstep. Venice goalkeeper Stefan Slavov had no chance as Nunemaker booted the ball into the right side of the net.
“We’ve advanced so much this year and I’m so proud of this team,” said Venice co-captain Drew Davis. “When you think of this team having 13 sophomores and only five seniors, we came a long way. Especially during the playoffs. Everyone stepped up and played hard. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”