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Champion 'Canes seek perfect GCAC finish

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002

Another season, another conference title. Ho-hum.

Citrus, with its 6-0 win over Central on Friday night, claimed its sixth consecutive Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship.

The Hurricanes, 16-1-1 prior to Monday night's game at Land O'Lakes and 9-0 in the GCAC, finish conference play Wednesday night at home against Springstead -- the only GCAC team to beat them last season.

"It's a big deal to the girls," Citrus coach Brady Bogart said. "It's quite an accomplishment. They'd really like to finish up undefeated. Not too many teams in this area can say they've done that."

The 'Canes also are unbeaten in county play (4-0) and in Class 2A, District 7 (10-0). They are the top seed in next week's district tournament at Lecanto.

"We're playing pretty good soccer right now," Bogart said. "Our passing game is doing well, and we've had a lot of girls step up and score."

Citrus' lineup is about to get stronger.

Starters Julia Brandtner, a forward, and Kalli Grimes, a midfielder, are expected back this week after missing time with knee injuries.

STRETCH RUN: Lecanto (13-4-1) has no intention of easing into the 2A-7 tournament.

The Panthers' final week of regular-season games includes Wednesday's matchup against Marion County's top team, Belleview.

"This was (scheduled) to get us ready for the district," Lecanto coach Kevin Towne said.

How good is Belleview? The Diamondback Rattlers are 1-0-1 against Citrus this season.

Lecanto is the second seed in 2A-7.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Panthers have outscored their opponents 67-13.

That's even more impressive when you consider Lecanto allowed five goals to Citrus in two losses and three to Land O'Lakes in another defeat.

The Panthers' offense is led by junior forwards Amber Gidden, who has a county-best 28 goals, and Dani Sowell. Sowell had a school-record five assists in a recent win.

Defensively, senior keeper Trisha Chenoweth, junior stopper Jenny Wheeler and sophomore sweeper Nikky Field are the leaders.

"They've just been solid back there," Towne said. "They don't have to boom the ball out. They control the ball coming out, and that puts us back on offense very quickly."

STAT OF THE WEEK: Lecanto has made four consecutive trips to the state playoffs. Each time, the Panthers advanced as the district runner-up.

-- Coaches are asked to report results to 800-333-7505, ext. 8123.

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