Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

It Starts in the Middle

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

It Starts in the Middle

Article excerpt

CLASS 4A: The Indians' midfielders are what makes them go

VENICE -- The Venice High girls soccer team has 50-goal scorer in Emily Dalton and a head-turning goalie in Sarah Donofrio.

"They're the heralded players," Indians coach Gary Bolyard said. "But it's the dirty work that wins the games."

What happens in between is the main reason the Indians are going to the Final Four for the first time.

The midfield and the defense make the offense roll and Donofrio's job much easier.

"My defense is what has kept me calm most of the games," Donofrio said. "All my backs are amazing."

"It's definitely a whole team effort," said junior defender/ midfielder Diahna Stepina. "There's not one person on this team. We have to get the ball out from the back and up to the forwards. The midfield plays a big role. Without it, we wouldn't be able to transition the ball."

Bolyard has substituted freely the entire season.

"Someone else steps up and has a great game," the fifth-year coach said.

It has been a growing experience for a group that had not played together much entering the season.

"We've learned to move across the field," Stepina said. "If someone is going to go up and get the ball, who is going to drop back? We have to work with the midfield as well."

And the group takes instructions well from the final line of defense.

"If I tell them to come back, they all drop back," Donofrio said. "They've really been a huge factor. Forwards score, but if we had scored two and let in six, we wouldn't be here."

Most are interchangeable parts who bring different qualities to the pitch.

Tall junior Palmer Francis is the stopper, the last line of defense in front of Donofrio. Junior Savannah Reay also is a starter. Sophomore Nicole Roemke and freshman Hannah Dalton switch in and out. Sophomore Tori Thurmond and freshman Sarah Dalton get playing time in back.

"They're all different," Bolyard said. "They have different qualities. ... They all do their job. They all have their own thing they do."

When an opponent's shot clears the defense, Donofrio has been turning them away. The team has 10 shutouts, including a 2-0 win over Plant City in the regional final. …

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