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Lecanto forward Dani Sowell was a ball-handler not a scorer in past seasons, but now the senior standout is proving she can find the net too.
"She doesn't get too excited about who scores, as long as we're successful," Panthers coach Kevin Towne said. "She's real quiet about that and always has been. That's why I think she's going to play at the next level. She's very much a team-oriented player."
Sowell has 9 goals and 2 assists for the Panthers (3-0-1), matching her goal output in 23 games last season when she was a Times All-Citrus/Hernando selection.
She has goals in every game, including four against North Marion and three against Hernando (her first hat trick). She scored the tying goal late in the opener against Central.
Why more goals this season?
"Her speed," Towne said. "She seems a little quicker. She's working well with her right and left (feet) and she's doing very well up top on offense. She's just got a knack for the goal. She's always where the ball is. She played on a club team this summer, and she came back in shape and ready to go."
Sowell's improvement gives Lecanto a formidable one-two punch.
Senior forward Amber Gidden (3 goals, 3 assists) led the Panthers with 28 goals last season. Alicia Short, another senior forward, also is a productive scorer.
THE REMATCH: When Lecanto beat Citrus in the Class 2A, District 7 final in February, it was the Panthers' first victory in the 19-game series.
Wednesday night at 7:30 in Inverness, the Panthers look to extend their series streak to two.
Towne expects a battle.
"If you look at past history, all but a couple (in the series) were one-goal games," Towne said. "Because of the rivalry and because a lot of the girls play with each other in club soccer and are friends, it doesn't matter who has what. It's always going to be a close game."
The Citrus (2-2-1) offense relied heavily on midfielder Amber Presnick for three years, but Presnick is graduating in December and isn't on the team.
In her absence, senior midfielder Sonya Segars and junior forward Kallie Grimes have stepped forward.
"They're very determined," Citrus coach Ethan Eldridge said. "It takes time. We're really trying to find our own identity right now."
Citrus hopes to counter Lecanto's firepower (16 goals in four games) with senior defender Whitney Gelin and senior keeper Laura Woythaler. Gelin is a two-time all-area pick.
"I look for it to be a one-goal game either way," Towne said.
"Citrus still has a tough team. A lot of people say they're down, but they're not. They're just adjusting to change. I think Citrus is going to be more balanced without Amber in there because the other girls have to step up, which they have been doing. They're playing good soccer."
In its win last spring, Lecanto was held to six shots, but got goals from Sowell (seventh minute) and Short (66th), and strong play from its defense.
"To beat them for the first time, and for the district championship was one of our biggest games," Towne said. "Unfortunately, they remember that. We took something away from them they had a long time and they can't wait to get it back."
-- Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org .