Pair of county teams eyeing runs
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
WESLEY CHAPEL -- The Wildcats went undefeated in district play and have the luxury of homecourt advantage when the Class 3A District 10 Tournament begins Tuesday. They wear the same bull's-eye Wesley Chapel's football team has carried all season: it's easy to target a defending champ.
"Every team is going to be out to get us," second-year coach Julie Marks said. "We're the top seed, and everyone wants to beat the top seed."
The Wildcats (14-4) have the bonus motivation of dominating a district yet wanting to prove themselves. Wesley Chapel finished fourth in the Sunshine Athletic Conference, but losses to Class 4A stalwarts River Ridge, Mitchell and Hudson ultimately helped the 'Cats more than easy wins over lesser opponents.
"The girls haven't played down to the level we have in our district, which is good, but we haven't played as high as we should be against the westside teams," Marks said. "They know that after districts and on, you've got to play tough."
A year ago, Pasco capped its first winning season with its first regional playoff berth. The Pirates (9-6) have found similar success under first-year coach Ramiro Tejada. To return to the playoffs, they need to beat a Mulberry team they defeated twice in the regular season.
A five-team district means one-win-and-they're-in for Wesley Chapel and Pasco, but the regular season isn't meaningless.
Consider the slight difference between Mulberry and Bartow: both finished with 3-5 district records, split two matches head-to-head, swept Zephyrhills and were swept by Wesley Chapel and Pasco. So the deciding tie-breaker for determining seeds was overall record, with Mulberry (6-13) edging Bartow (6-15). As a result, Mulberry can make the playoffs just by beating second-seeded Pasco. Bartow has to defeat Zephyrhills, then beat top-seeded Wesley Chapel three hours later.
On the whole, it's a comparatively tame district. Not only do the 3A-10 squads have it easy in district, but their first-round draw shouldn't be too tough. The champion will open the playoffs at home against the runner-up from District 9, which has only three teams. Beyond the first round, things get significantly tougher, with No. 4 Fort Myers Bishop Verot and No. 6 DeSoto County likely waiting.
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