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Big four to clash today in 5A-11

The top four seeds in Class 5A, District 11 _ a group that has seen each member ranked in the state's top 10 at one time or another this season _ will fight tonight for survival.

The action starts with Plant vs. Lakeland at 5 p.m., followed by Durant vs. Lakeland Jenkins at 7.

"I think it will be a nice matchup for us," said Plant coach Jennifer Burchill, whose team defeated Jefferson 15-0, 15-3 in Tuesday's first round. "We beat (Lakeland) about a month ago, but they were without their tough middle (6-foot-1 Jessica Cowley).

"But we've come along way since then and I feel like we can play with anybody who comes our way. A month ago I couldn't have said that. But now I feel confident."

Lakeland advanced after a 15-2, 15-4 victory against East Bay in a match that lasted little more than 25 minutes; and Jenkins moved on after a 15-13, 15-4 drubbing of Armwood.

Durant, the tournament's No. 1 seed and the state's third-ranked team, received a first-round bye and are heavily favored tonight.

"We've lost four starters this season due to injuries and some other things," Jenkins coach Diane Werrick said. "It's just been one problem after another."

The most damaging loss to the Eagles came about a month ago when All-America candidate Jessica Leverette broke her leg during the Berkeley Prep Premier Tournament.

"But hey, we have nothing to lose against Durant," Werrick said. "We're the underdog and we're expected to lose. But we're not going to give in, either."

Most of the focus, meantime, will be on Lakeland and Plant, which already has surprised almost everyone in Hillsborough County with a 16-3 record and two three-game losses to Durant.

"We don't do anything fancy because I have a young group," Burchill said of her team, which often has two freshman and two sophomores in the lineup. "But this team has shown me they can fight.

"I've got to say I'm really pleased with the development, especially with my freshmen and sophomores. We're ready."

Elswhere

In Class 6A, District 6 at Plant City, Bloomingdale eliminated the hosts 15-6, 15-3 and set up a semifinal match against Sarasota Riverview at 6 today. Tampa Bay Tech lost to Riverview 15-5, 15-10.

In the other first-round match, Brandon defeated Bradenton Southeast 15-10, 15-12 and will face Manatee at 5 today in the other semifinal.

In 3A-10, host Mulberry defeated Frostproof 15-8, 15-7 and advanced to Thursday's championship against Tampa Catholic.

_ TIMES STAFF

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