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Bears ready for 3rd shot at Lecanto

Though Central has yet to pull it off, the Panthers are "beatable.''

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- They've gotten close, they've gotten destroyed.

Now the Central girls try to get even with undefeated Lecanto today in the Class 2A, Region 3 Tournament -- when it matters most.

The Bears blitzed through District 6 undefeated, and with the help of seven finalists and singles titles by Jane McDonald and Shelane Etchison, won their district tournament by a five-point margin over Hernando on Tuesday.

"Yes, they are beatable," Central's No. 1 player, Jen Ales, said of of the Panthers. "We've come very close, but just couldn't get that extra game we needed to get. They've been undefeated for three years, and its time they went down and we took their spot."

That's a great thought, but the Bears' season ends today without their first win over Lecanto in three tries.

Central lost 5-2 to the Panthers at home March 1 in a dual decided in the doubles matches. With No. 2 McDonald out with an ankle injury, Lecanto cruised to a 7-0 win April 3. McDonald, who played through pain in districts, said she does not expect to compete today. She injured her ankle March 21 against Hudson. "It'll be tougher (without her)," Panthers coach Joe Nicolai said. "We're going to give it our best shot. We've only lost four (regular season) matches in the last two years, and all four have been to Lecanto. For me to say we're going to go up there and beat them, we will have to play our very best and then get some breaks."

* * *

Class 2A, region 3 tennis tourney

WHERE: Lecanto.

SCHEDULE: Central (14-2) vs. Lecanto (13-0), 4 p.m. today.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Central. The Bears lost twice to Lecanto, 5-2 and 7-0, in the regular season but think they're a lot closer than that.

POTENTIAL SLEEPER: Shelane Etchison, Central. The freshman lost only six games in winning the fourth-flight district title.

PLAYER WORTH PRICE OF ADMISSION: Lecanto No. 2 Mujiba Ansari.

DID YOU KNOW? Central never has beaten Lecanto under coach Joe Nicolai. -- BRANT JAMES

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