NORTH PORT -- When injuries left Braden River incomplete during the regular season, the Pirates responded by adopting a positionless style. They maintained the shape of whatever formation they opted to use, but during a game, a player could be a holding midfielder or a center back. The next night, she might be a forward or wing.
A forward by trade, Joanne Gigliotti spent time this season at midfield and defense. For Friday's Class 4A-District 11 championship in North Port, she slotted atop the lineup as a striker in a 4-4-2 formation and in the 83rd minute the sophomore scored to seal a 3-2 win against North Port and earn the district title.
"Every girl here has played every position. That's what's amazing to me," head coach Don Engelberger said. "We knew we had talent and they were all willing to play any position we asked them to play with no, 'I can't play that,' which you'll typically hear. They did it and finally we got it to where the chemistry was right."
Gigliotti paired up top with Megan Wagner, another former defender, to create a matchup problem for the Bobcats at North Port High School. Their activity helped the Pirates (10-5-1, 7-3) put five shots on goal during the first half despite North Port (12-4-1, 8-2) controlling possession.
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During the 26th minute, Gigliotti tracked down a chip pass in the box and poked a shot beneath goalkeeper Kayla Gordon to give BRHS a 2-0 lead.
"She's phenomenal," Engelberger said. "Keep the pressure on, strip it and go."
In the first period of golden-goal extra time, Gigliotti converged on a defender and pulled the ball off her feet.
Behind the back line, Gigliotti slowed as Gordon was forced to make a decision. The goalkeeper moved, Gigliotti fired to the bottom-left corner and the Pirates celebrated after a near disaster in the second half.
"I really wanted it so bad, so I saw the through ball, and I ran and I took it," Gigliotti said.
BRHS took a 1-0 lead when attacking midfielder Alexis Madrid curved a corner kick into the net during the eighth minute.
North Port converted a pair of set pieces during the second half to force the extra period. Khala Richards headed in a corner by Saravya Kamarajugadda during the 56th minute. Five minutes later, Kamarajugadda launched a free kick from the edge of the area over goalkeeper Amber Dion's head for the equalizer.
But Braden River, the No. 3 seed, regrouped and earned a district title after losing both regular-season meetings to the top seed.
"We've lost so many times to North Port," Gigliotti said. "We just wanted it so bad."