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It's tournament time in soccer // Patience, footwork key for Hurricanes

Patience ... and some footwork.

The way Citrus coach Brady Bogart sees it, that's the only thing separating his girls soccer team from the upper-echelon schools in the Hurricanes' district.

He needs to be patient, and his players need to work on their footwork. Then maybe, he figures, the Hurricanes can compete with the Gainesville Buchholzes and Leesburgs of the world.

Until then, the Hurricanes will look to play the perfect match and pull off the perfect upset. They will get a chance this week as the Class 5A, District 4 championships are held.

It won't be easy. The Hurricanes will host Ocala Vanguard Monday at 7 p.m., a team they have beaten twice this season, but if they win they will have to face Buchholz in Gainesville.

In two matches with the Bobcats this year, Citrus went 0-2 and was outscored 9-1.

Of course, Citrus has to get to Gainesville first, and that means dispatching Vanguard. And that means scoring some goals.

Like Lecanto and Crystal River, Citrus has had some trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. There have been the big matches _ 6-0 and 4-0 wins over Palatka; 5-0 and 4-1 wins over Crystal River. The only problem is, those four matches account for half of the Hurricanes' season goal output.

"We've scored 38 goals and that's not a lot at all," Bogart said. "That puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It's tough to win 1-0 games."

It's tough to win at all lately for Citrus. It has two goals in its last four matches, and three 1-1 ties since Jan. 7.

"Going into the district, that's kind of frightening," Bogart said.

Hence, the need for patience. Bogart has installed what he thinks is the right offense, the right starters with the right attitudes. Developing that talent, however, will take time.

The problem hasn't been taking shots. It has been sneaking them past the keeper.

"It's just converting. It's been our problem all year," Bogart said. "We've outshot a lot of teams we've played, but we can't get the ball in.

"I even talked to the coach at Buchholz about it. He works with the (nationally ranked) team. It's just speed and agility, and that will be our main focus next year. I think it's the footwork. We're shanking a lot of shots and hitting them off the side of our foot. It's like a golf swing, I guess. You can't expect changes overnight."

Citrus is still the highest scoring team in the county. Melody Fedor has a county-best 10 goals, converted keeper Dalila Gordon had a four-goal match last week and has seven on the year, and Jill Keating also has provided some punch up front.

Because of some talented front-liners and a good defense and keeper in Molly Keating, Bogart isn't about to concede the district title to anyone.

"Buchholz and Vanguard could be beat," he said. "Us or Gainesville have a chance. We just have to play perfect."


WHERE: Various sites.

WHEN: Monday _ Vanguard at Citrus, 7 p.m.; Palatka at Gainesville (Citizens Field), 7 p.m. Wednesday _ Palatka/Gainesville winner vs. Gainesville, 6 p.m.; Vanguard/Citrus winner vs. Buchholz, 8 p.m. (both at Citizens Field). Friday _ Championship at 8 p.m. (Citizens).

SEEDING: 1. Gainesville Buchholz, 2. Leesburg, 3. Gainesville, 4. Citrus, 5. Ocala Vanguard, 6. Palatka.

OUTLOOK: Citrus, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion this year, had two easy wins over Vanguard and is expected to advance. If so, it will meet Buchholz, which beat Citrus twice this season by 3-0 and 6-1 scores. Citrus also was beaten soundly by top-seeded Leesburg, so winning the district would be a huge upset. However, coach Brady Bogart is confident his team can make it to regional play. Citrus will be without starting sweeper Denise Harrigan, out until at least the semifinals with a strained hip ligament. Bogart said at least five other players are nursing "aches and pains."