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"I think Leesburg came out just expecting to win. I don't think we even believed we could win before the game started. But after that first goal, we thought we had a shot. Then the second goal just really boosted our confidence and we believed we could do it."


Lecanto's senior defender speaking after a 2-1 upset victory over 10th-ranked Leesburg in the Class 2A, District 5 girls soccer semifinals. Vantine scored one of the Panthers' goals.


Pirate praise

It was another tough year for the Crystal River girls soccer team. The Pirates' season ended Monday night in a 2-0 loss to Lecanto _ with a 2-14-2 record.

But what shouldn't be lost in the final outcome is the outstanding play of senior keeper Andrea Merrick.

Lecanto had 57 shots on goal Monday, but scored just twice. Merrick had 23 saves, including several outstanding, athletic plays.

There was the leaping save she made of a shot that hit the top of the net 13 minutes into the game. After she stopped it, the ball fell to the ground, where she dove on it to keep a Lecanto player from kicking it in.

There was the header she stopped as it sailed toward her 24 minutes into the game. And maybe most impressive of all was the save she made after Lecanto's Nicole Robinson made a breakaway and went one-on-one with Merrick with 25 minutes remaining in the second half.

"She's been a strong, dedicated player for us and she always shows leadership out on the field," Pirates coach Ginger Smith said. "With as many shots as we've had against us, it's surprising more didn't go in. She has played well."


WHAT: Boys soccer.

WHO: Citrus vs. Crystal River.

WHEN: Tonight, 7:30.

THE SKINNY: They have split the regular-season matches and the most recent one ended in a brawl, which has been on the players' minds since that ugly incident. Every game since Dec. 8 has led up to this point. Pride and a championship are on the line between fierce rivals. What else can you ask for?


We often get accused of giving too much attention to the bad athletes and the small percentage of obnoxious fans who give the greater majority a bad name. The truth is, we would be remiss in our duties if we ignored the brawls on the field, the illegal incidents off the field, and unruly behavior in the stands.

But every now and then, you should be allowed to read stories about good behavior _ like that which has been on display at Citrus High this week.

Citrus is hosting the Class 2A, District 5 girls soccer championship. Monday night, many Hurricanes fans braved cold, rainy weather when Citrus wasn't even playing. Then on Wednesday, as Lecanto battled 10th-ranked Leesburg with its season on the line, the most unlikely of things happened. The Citrus fans _ and some of the players waiting for their 8 p.m. game _ began cheering for Lecanto. The teams have one of the most fierce rivalries of all the county's sports teams, but Wednesday night it only mattered that Lecanto was a Citrus County team and Leesburg was an outsider.

"I can't say enough about the Citrus fans," Lecanto coach Kevin Towne said. "It was nice to see them cheering for us. It helped us out a lot."

Citrus and Lecanto will play for the District 5 title tonight, so undoubtedly the Hurricanes fans will go back to cheering for their own team. But our hats go off to them for Wednesday's very classy display of a word that is too often forgotten these days _ sportsmanship.

_ Compiled by Antonya English

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