Pirate boys back at full strength

Published January 10, 2007

Crystal River boys coach Michael Callaway believes his team is back and ready for the rest of the regular season.

The Pirates had a few rough weeks toward the end of December. Notably, Crystal River was missing two starters - goalkeeper Alex Crandall, who was out with a back injury, and sweeper Scott Hubbard, who was serving a two-game suspension.

The key defenders returned just in time for the Pirates' home game Tuesday against Belleview. Crystal River tied Belleview at 0 in mid December and needed either a win or a tie Tuesday to remain in contention for first in the upcoming Class 4A, District 6 tournament.

Callaway projected if the Pirates tied, they would have to finish out the week with wins against Dunnellon and Citrus. If the Pirates lose against Belleview, they'll likely be in second place.

JUST SHOOT IT OUT: Lecanto boys coach Doug Warren would prefer to have regular-season games end in a shootout instead of tie. He should know. The Panthers are 6-4-4 this season.

"We seem to come up with ways to tie people," Warren said. "Four ties is the most ties I've ever had before. Personally I get tired of them. I wish we did shootouts to get the game over. We do shootouts from the district tournament throughout the championship but we don't do them during the regular season. It's stupid. It's something you hardly practice then have to come up with five people.

"It makes no sense. You should just have shootouts for the entire season. Games might last longer but at least the there's a good chance you'd probably have a shootout during the season and then you can come into the tournament with some experience."

LEADER OF THE PACK: Lecanto senior Natalie Burnett keeps scored 32 goals and has 19 assists. Four more goals and she sets a Lecanto record, surpassing Amber Gidden's 2000 record, as the all-time leading goal scorer. Burnett's teammate Maggie Mueller, also is putting up some numbers with 17 goals and five assists.

But they haven't done it alone. The Panthers defense has 11 shutouts and has only given up 18 goals, compared to the 69 scored. With the Class 4A-6 tournament starting Tuesday, Lecanto (12-4-2) is seeded second behind Belleview.

To finish out the season, the Panthers play two road games at Springstead and Land O'Lakes, with junior sweeper Erin Carpenter back on the field after thumb surgery.

NO SLACKING OFF: Crystal River girls coach Bill Reyes gave his captains two objectives for Monday's practice - work on conditioning and focus on footwork. How they did it, he told the players, was up to them.

The next thing he knew the players, led by captain Cara Avery, were running warmup laps, doing sit-ups, push-ups, toe touches and a variety of drills.

"They killed themselves, and I'm quite proud of them," Reyes said. "It's good to see that despite our record, that they still want to push themselves and have success."

The Pirates were 5-12 overall entering Tuesday's game against Nature Coast. They have one regular-season game left - a Thursday matchup against South Sumter - before the district tournament, which will begin next week.

CRYSTAL RIVER LEADERS: Going into Tuesday's game, senior forward-midfielder Melissa Blackstone led the Pirates in points with 11 goals and seven assists. Forward Deanna Johnson was second with four goals and four assists.