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It's tournament time in soccer // Panther boys heavy favorites for title

In the six games it played against district foes this season, the Lecanto boys soccer team didn't face much of a challenge. Looking at the scores, you wonder if the Panthers (11-3-3) even broke a sweat.

They beat all three district foes by a combined 32-1, and slammed Monday's district tournament opponent, North Marion, by 16-0. Which makes one wonder: Why are they even playing this thing?

"Anything can happen at any time. You never know," Lecanto coach Kevin Towne said. "We've been beating those guys this year, but you can't take anybody for granted at this time of the year. We have to go in there against North Marion and play like they are a championship team."

Which will be somewhat of a reach, considering the Colts have just two wins and two ties along with 11 losses in this, their second season. Throw in Lecanto's two wins, a merciful 6-0 win in November and a 10-0 shellacking a few weeks ago, and you get the picture.

That said, the Panthers' biggest test should come in the final against either Crystal River or Belleview. Lecanto's results against both have been similar, though the Pirates have given them a little more competition and scored the only goal of any district opponent. Lecanto topped Belleview 5-0 and 4-0 in their two meetings and handed Crystal River 3-0 and 4-1 losses.

"We have to be concerned about Crystal River and Belleview," Towne said. "It's tough to beat anybody three times in a row, and both teams are playing better now. But whoever it is, we have to play our game."

Lecanto boasts the district's best scoring punch in the three-man front line of Richie Wright, Travis Tatman and Robbie Williams. Wright is among the county leaders in goals (19) and overall scoring (26 points).

Williams has been a late starter, scoring 11 of his 14 goals in the past three weeks, while Tatman has provided a steady source of goals (6) and assists (9) from the middle.

Crystal River also has one of the county's leading scorers in Andres Sandoval. The freshman, who has given coach David Soluri good reason to be optimistic about next year, has 13 goals and four assists this season. However, it's the supporting cast that might doom Crystal River.

Simply put, the Pirates are young and are still trying to put all the pieces together. Yet they should be favored against Belleview, a team that has been inconsistent this season. Additionally, a win over the Diamondback Rattlers would secure a playoff berth for Crystal River and give Soluri's troops some solid experience to build on for next year.

4A-5 BOYS TOURNAMENT AT A GLANCE

WHERE: Crystal River High School.

WHEN: Monday _ Lecanto vs. North Marion, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday _ Crystal River vs. Belleview, 5:30 p.m. Friday _ Championship at 7:30 p.m.

SEEDING: 1. Lecanto, 2. Crystal River, 3. Leesburg, 4. North Marion.

OUTLOOK: Lecanto is the clear favorite after having beaten all three district opponents easily during the regular season. The key for them will be to keep their heads into the game and not start looking ahead. Crystal River might present the biggest challenge. The Pirates, in a rebuilding season, have improved since a horrible start and have a good shot at making the playoffs. Lecanto advanced to the region final last season.

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