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Panthers, Pirates will be chasing Leopards today

There is little doubt which team is the favorite going into today's Class 4A, District 6 girls golf championships at Bella Vista Golf Club in Howie-in-the-Hills. But that doesn't mean the county's coaches already have surrendered.

Crystal River and Lecanto like their chances in today's 18-hole event, but know it will take a stellar performance and a bit of a collapse by defending 4A state champion Hernando for the door to be opened.

"If we play well and get a few of our kids to shoot low scores, then we might close the gap or get close," said Lecanto coach Ron Allan, whose team lost by 24 strokes (378-402) to the Leopards at last week's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Championship. "Hernando should be the favorite, but Crystal River, Tavares and Eustis are all good teams too."

As Citrus learned in Monday's boys district championship, counting the Panthers out, especially late in the season, can be costly. Lecanto's boys saved their best for last and narrowly lost to the Hurricanes, and Allan is hoping for a similar performance from his girls.

"We've shot some real good nine-hole scores over the past few weeks and all of our girls have shot a personal best since we've been back from spring break," Allan said. "We just have to get four of our girls to post low scores at the same time."

Two Allan has come to count on are junior Lisa Troiano and freshman Ashley Reeves. Both routinely post nine-hole scores of 40 or under, and both should contend for the individual championship. Reeves recently posted her best performance of the year with a nine-hole round of 37.

Yet, when it comes to a favorite for medalist honors, one needs look no farther than Crystal River's Rebecca Twiner. The sophomore won the GCAC title by two strokes (82-84) over Hernando's Alanna McVay.

"Yeah, I think she's got a real chance," Crystal River coach Pat Deem said. "I've been real pleased with the way she practices, and she really is concentrating on her game. (At the conference meet) she did what she had to do when she needed to. She plays the course and she attacks it. And she's a great golfer between the ears."

Whether the Pirates can vie for the team title _ and a berth at the state tournament _ remains to be seen. After starting the season impressively, Crystal River fell to third at the conference meet, 10 strokes behind the Panthers.

Citrus, meanwhile, isn't harboring any unrealistic hopes. Coach Michelle Connor, whose team finished fourth at the conference meet (14 strokes behind the Pirates at 426), is counting on at least a top-five finish.

"(Hernando) is favored, but I wouldn't say they're going to run away with it," Connor said. "Lecanto is a good team. Crystal River looks good and Tavares isn't bad either. If we shoot like we shot the last time we were over there, we should be in the top half of the pack."

Citrus has played twice at Bella Vista, coming out with four wins (Tavares Christian and Mount Dora) and two losses (both to Tavares).