High School Sports

Braden River's girls soccer season ends in district quarterfinal

EAST MANATEE -- The free kick clanged against the post, another shot bouncing toward an apparent goal was cleared off the line and a few other shots whistled inches wide of the target.

That summed up Braden River's attack in Monday's Class 4A-District 11 quarterfinal against visiting Sarasota.

The Pirates (9-5-0) also felt the sting defensively as the Sailors used an 11-minute scoring burst en route to a 4-1 victory.

Braden River, the tournament's No. 3 seed, had beaten Sarasota (7-11-2) in two regular season meetings, 6-0 and 2-1, but struggled in a soggy and rainy contest Monday.

"This is a tough district," Braden River head coach Don Engelberger said. "You've got to get the bounces, and we didn't get the bounces. That's nothing against them. They outplayed us (Monday)."

Part of the dilemma for Engelberger's group was stopping Sarasota junior Kirstyn Abbate.

The forward terrorized the Pirates with her pace and skill on the ball.

In the 15th minute, she was in the right place at the right time when a low cross deflected to her feet and a crisp blast to the top right corner made it 1-0.

Roughly seven minutes later, Abbate displayed her pace and touch by dribbling past Braden River's back line for a one-on-one with the keeper, and she snuck her shot into the twine for a 2-0 lead.

That speed came into play again later in the match. Holding a 3-0 lead following Kelly Halliwell's long-range strike late in the first half, the Sailors were caught in a back-and-forth, wide-open match with the Pirates, who were seeking to cut the deficit down.

A Sarasota free kick from its own third of the pitch found Abbate, who had acres

of space to dribble into as Braden River's midfield and forwards were perched high up the field.

Abbate beat her marker and ended any comeback bid with her third goal of the game just 17 minutes into the second period.

"She feeds off her teammates, but she's a team player," said Sarasota head coach Casey Garrett of Abbate. "The other night we had Senior Night, and I think she dished off three balls. She's very unselfish and a team player. ... I think that speaks volumes for our team. It's not just one player. It's not one kid going at it. It's all 11 players play as a team on the field."

Despite the lopsided scoreline, Engelberger said his team never felt the game was out of reach. "The girls all felt like we were in it," he said. "I felt like we were in it. The fourth goal hurt. We got a goal back. We felt like that could be contagious. It wasn't. We had opportunities. ... They just outplayed us (Monday)."

Engelberger credited Sarasota's possession game as a key to the Sailors victory.

The loss ends Braden River's season and the Pirates lose six seniors off this year's team. One of those seniors, forward Carly Provan, ended her Braden River soccer career with a goal nine minutes from time.

The tournament continues Wednesday with the semifinals when the other county program -- top-seeded Lakewood Ranch -- begins its postseason at home with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Elsewhere

PALMETTO 7, ST. PETERSBURG DIXIE HOLLINS 1 -- Alex Mercer scored three goals, and Jade Adams booted two more to lead the Tigers over the Rebels in the opening round of the Class 4A-District 11 tournament at Seminole High. Adding goals for the Tigers were Caroline Mercer and Tanya Campos. Taylor Racky had three saves in goal for the Tigers.

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