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County clash set in soccer semis

Crystal River is wary going into tonight's game with Lecanto despite dispatching the Panthers twice in the regular season.

Dave Soluri liked what he saw from Lecanto in Monday's 3-0 victory over Lake Weir, but he knows the Panthers can do better.

Which partly explains why the Crystal River coach is taking nothing for granted entering tonight's Class 2A, District 5 semifinal against Lecanto.

"It's really difficult to tell," Soluri said. "Lecanto didn't play a quality team and I don't think they played to their potential. Still, we have to go in thinking that anyone can beat us. We have to play our best game every time we go out."

The Pirates have every reason to take their rivals for granted. In their two regular-season matchups, Crystal River posted big wins each time. Yet, even that can be deceiving, said Soluri, who contends that both games were a lot closer than the score might indicate.

In addition, Lecanto was impressive in dispatching Lake Weir, registering 27 shots on goal while thoroughly controlling play. This was especially true late in the game, when the Panthers exploded for two goals in less than 2 minutes.

"They dominated the game and took a lot of on-target shots, but they didn't play as well as I've seen them play earlier," Soluri said. "I expect a closer game (than in the regular season). They've improved a lot."

Crystal River's biggest enemy may be itself. The Pirates will have to guard against the kind of complacency that comes with a 12-2 record and the tournament's No. 1 seed.

"We're kind of stuck," Soluri said. "We've shown signs of consistency, but in between we still have to work hard. Both (regular-season) games were close most of the game. If (tonight's game) stays close, anything could happen. We have to guard against mistakes and play our ball-control game."

While the matchup between the Panthers and Pirates may be the one of most interest to local fans, the first game between Citrus and Leesburg (6 p.m.) gives fans plenty of reason to show up early.

This will be the first action for Citrus, which earned a first-round bye, since a 2-1 win over Ocala Forest on Jan. 24. It is a game the Hurricanes have been waiting for since a heartbreaking loss to the Yellow Jackets on Jan. 14. Leesburg, meanwhile, advanced to tonight's semifinal with a convincing 7-0 win over North Marion.