By CAREY FREEMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2002
LECANTO -- If shoddy defense was the problem in its early-season tie with Lecanto, then it appears Crystal River learned its lesson.
In a game that saw neither offense create much in the way of scoring opportunities, it was the Pirates' defense that sparked a 2-0 victory against the Panthers on Wednesday.
"Our defense played well today," Crystal River coach Bobby Verlato said. "We shut off all their scoring opportunities. Offensively, we didn't do what we wanted in the first half. (Lecanto) really took us out of our game and they really come at you hard."
The Pirates (11-2-2 overall, 8-0-2 in Class 2A, District 7) were held to just 15 shots -- four in the first half -- but made the most of their limited scoring chances, tallying two first-half goals and clinching the top spot in the upcoming district tournament. The defense, meanwhile, made it stick thanks to a stifling effort that held Lecanto (8-8-2, 4-4-2) to a mere three shots.
"I'm not happy with our total performance," Verlato said. "They took us out of our offensive game, but our defense came to play. ... And you know what they say, defense wins championships."
That just might be the case if Crystal River's defense plays the way it did Wednesday. Not only did the Pirates' defense do its job on the Lecanto offense, it also produced some offense of its own in the 36th and 39th minutes.
Leading 1-0, Crystal River took a commanding lead when Mike Grybek received a throw-in near the sideline and flicked the ball ahead to a streaking Matt Ryals. Ryals took the ball on the run and sped past two Lecanto defenders before blasting a shot from more than 20 yards. Panthers keeper Nick Rowthorn managed to get a hand on the ball only to see it ricochet into the net.
Crystal River scored its opening goal when Drew Austin drew a foul in the Panthers' penalty area and defender Kyle Griffin converted the penalty kick.