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Defense makes the difference

Four county teams won district finals with shutouts. Don't expect their strategy to change in the regionals.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2002

Four county teams won district finals with shutouts. Don't expect their strategy to change in the regionals.

For those hoping to watch a wide-open, full-throttle, shoot-at-all-cost regional game Tuesday night -- too bad. County teams that survived last week's district tournaments didn't do so without playing defense.

Of the five district finals involving Pinellas schools, four were won by shutout. In the Class 3A, District 11 final between East Lake and Palm Harbor University, the teams played 100 minutes and still didn't score. The Eagles won 5-4 in penalty kicks to advance.

St. Petersburg shut out Seminole for the second consecutive time in 3A-12. Once again, sweeper Brittney Lewis was pivotal in shutting down Warhawks' scorer Julie Beatty. Lewis even booted the game-winning penalty kick.

Lakewood had an easy time in its 2A-9 final, defeating Tampa Bay Tech 6-0. The Spartans outscored their district opponents 18-1.

And then there's St. Petersburg Catholic, which recorded its 18th shutout and third against Shorecrest in the A-7 final.

The Barons (22-3-1) allowed only four goals against district opponents this season. They won their first district championship Friday, and they did it by stressing defense.

"The defense has played exceptionally well," SPC coach D'Arcy Clarie said. "Of course, we would like to have two-goal leads, but when we have a one-goal lead we're pretty confident about keeping it."

St. Petersburg Catholic hosts Naples St. John Neumann on Tuesday at 7:30 in the regional quarterfinals. The Barons will rely on defenders Melissa Smith, Alecia Fudge, Colleen Mahaffey, Christina Gantley and Kimberly Winning to continue the most successful season in school history.

"We communicate, but mostly, we hang out a lot and we're like family," Smith said. "We know how each other plays. We know we're going to back each other up all the time."

All the Barons' defenders hope for is a goal and they feel the game is theirs. The scorer is usually Lena Mullaney, who had eight in the three district games and has 46 for the season.

For the first time, St. Petersburg Catholic is in a different district than perennial power Clearwater Central Catholic. The schools didn't play each other this season, but the Barons have already looked ahead in the brackets to see when they would meet CCC.

It would be in the Region 2 final, and the Barons hope it happens.

"We're ready for CCC," Mullaney said. "We want to play them."

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