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'Canes, Panthers' work is cut out for them


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2001

With every challenge comes opportunity.

For Citrus and Lecanto, the challengenever has been greater. Neither has the opportunity.

In separate Class 2A regional semifinal games, Citrus plays host to four-time state champion Orlan do Bishop Mooreand Daytona Beach Seabreeze, which has seven final four appearances, travels to Lecanto. A win for either local program could mean instant statewide credibility -- something both crave.

"It's real exciting," said Lecanto forward Amber Gidden. "Any time you get to go out and play a team this good, it brings out skills that you never knew you had. I always think games like this are fun."

Fun, but potentially deadly.

Neither Citrus nor Lecanto has advanced to a regional final.

Last year, Citrus suffered its only loss of the season in thisround -- 2-0to Seabreeze. On the same night, Lecanto fell to Bishop Moore 3-1 despite leading 1-0 in the 65th minute.

In 1999, Citrus lost to Bishop More 1-0 in its only other regional semifinal appearance.

"It would mean a lot to our girls,"Hurricanes coach Brady Bogart said. "This round has been our nemesis. Only 16 teams are left and 15 are going to lose their last game, so I'm excited. It's a challenge."

A big one.

Bishop Moore, which ranks second all time in Florida with 35 playoff wins, is again one of the state's top teams.

The Hornets are 25-4-1 against one of the state's toughest schedules with a lineup that includes fourfreshman starters. Senior keeper Lindsey Whitehead is a University of Florida signee.

In coach Greg Brick's six seasons, Bishop Moore has won two state titles, made three final four appearances andnever has not reached the regional final.

Citrus, of course, is no slouch.

The Hurricanes (21-1-3) have lost twice in their last 50 games.

In its last two games, easy wins against Lecanto (4-0) and Springstead (3-0), Citrus allowed five shots on goal and executed its offense as well as it has all season.

Against Springstead, senior forward Amy Bowen and sophomore midfielder Amber Presnick accounted for all of the Hurricanes' scoring.

Bowen leads Citrus with 32 goals. Presnick is second with 29.

"We've got to capitalize on any opportunities we get," Bogart said.

"Our midfielders will have to control theirs because I think their passing game is going to be good. Defensively, we've been playing good all year and hopefully they can continue to keep us in the game," Bogart said.

Lecanto (17-4-2) has an equally daunting task. Seabreeze (19-5-3) has 23 playoff wins to the Panthers' two.

The Sandcrabs, led by 11th-year coach Uwe Baldwin, have failed to reach the final four only once since 1993, and that was six seasons ago. They've played for the state championship three times, most recently in 1999, but came away empty-handed each time.

"I'd say they're probably a notch above everybody else we've played," Lecanto coach Kevin Towne said. "But anything is possible.

"We're going to have to play our best game, and we're going to have to catch some breaks here or there, but anybody can win."

Defensively, Lecanto is led by junior keeper Trisha Chenoweth, who had 21 saves in last week's 2-1 victory against Zephyrhills. Offensively, everything revolves around Gidden, who has 29 goals.

"(A win) would be a great step for the program," Towne said. "Every year we've gotten a little better, but to get to the final eight would be remarkable. We're excited Citrus is in the final 16, too. It just shows you that soccer in this area is starting to get competitive with soccer in other areas."

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