EAST MANATEE -- Missing a potent goal scorer for the district tournament, where it's win or go home, might cause concern for most high school programs.
But not the Braden River Pirates.
In the Class 4A-District 11 quarterfinals Monday, Braden River blanked visiting Sarasota 3-0 to earn a spot in Wednesday's semifinals at home against Charlotte, which upset Venice 4-1 on Monday.
Another victory sends Braden River to the district finals and a berth in next week's regional portion of the Class 4A state tourney.
"I think we possessed the ball pretty well," Braden River head coach Don Engelberger said. "I think we had the right idea moving the ball around. ... We played very well. We talked really well; we looked like a soccer team."
Braden River typically employs a 4-4-2 formation with Carly Provan and Kayla Gray providing the thunder up front in attack.
But Gray is absent this week due to her obligations as a member of Jamaica's U-20 team that is competing in the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship in the Cayman Islands.
So Engelberger's tactics were adjusted slightly to form a 4-4-1-1 with a central forward acting as a distributor for the speedy Provan against the Sailors.
That move didn't result in goals for Provan, but it did set up some solid efforts that ultimately paid off for other players to find the score sheet.
Liz Shirey and Carley Engelberger found twine in the first half. Shirey's goal came on an empty net after Sarasota keeper Savannah Long, who made several saves in the match, punched away Braden River's first effort on goal.
However, Shirey banged in the rebound to give the hosts a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
"We had two early mistakes in the first half, and kind of gave those two goals away," Sarasota head coach Casey Garrett said. "But our keeper had a great game (Monday). She made every first
save, it was just the rebound and those kill you."
That was all Braden River needed as the Pirates limited Sarasota to four shots on goal and just one threatening chance to find the net.
So now the Pirates turn their attention to Wednesday's semifinal clash, where a victory should give them a third crack at Lakewood Ranch, the tournament's top seed, in Friday's final.
Don Engelberger, though, said his team isn't thinking about Lakewood Ranch at all.
"Lakewood Ranch isn't even on the radar right now," Engelberger said.
Engelberger expects Gray back should his club progress past districts, but the team isn't about one player.
"We have confident reserves," Engelberger said. "I have faith and I trust them. They trust each other. There's not one person that makes this team. And everybody knows that. Obviously, Kayla is a tremendous loss for us. But honestly, we do have girls that step up and I think they showed that (Monday)."
PALMETTO 4, MANATEE 0 -- Gregorio Calvillo scored two goals and had an assist to lead the visiting Tigers over the Hurricanes in a boys soccer match.
Tyler Lawrence added a goal and an assist. Raul Loera also scored for the Tigers (17-2), and Javis Taniagua and Ben Espinal had assists. Goalies Matt Simmonds and Andy Perez teamed for the shutout.