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Long's back problem returns

Amanda Long's comeback is on hold.

The Lecanto senior, who missed the 2001 season with a fractured spine, began experiencing more pain in her back last week and has not played since.

"During my second challenge match (Friday), I was getting sharp pain in my lower back," Long said. "It's hard to describe. It's sharp and excruciating. I don't know how else to describe it."

Long played No. 1 singles and doubles in 2000, but the injury led to two surgeries and 23 months of rehabilitation. She returned to the Panthers on Feb. 26 and was in the No. 4 singles position.

"The first match she played okay," coach Joan Roberts said. "But the last three times she played she had some troubles, so we're checking it out."

The extent of Long's injury is not known. She had x-rays taken Tuesday and is waiting for the results.

"It's really nerve-wracking waiting to know if the problem still exists, or if it's worsened," Long said. "I have no idea why I'm having pain again after going through surgery and rehab."

'CANES CHARGE: This is how much the Citrus girls improved in recent weeks:

When the Hurricanes played Central and Lecanto in February, they _ as first-year coach Phil Gaffney put it _ were "killed." Last week, they lost 4-3 to both teams and had an opportunity to win each match.

Tuesday, Citrus (8-5, 5-3 in Class 2A, District 6) avenged an earlier loss by beating Crystal River 5-2.

"We're playing our best right now," Gaffney said.

One key against Crystal River was the play of sophomore Andrea Hanson, who defeated Elizabeth Walling 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.

Hanson (13-0) has been Citrus' regular at No. 3 but moved up a spot against the Pirates for matchup purposes.

"She's a human backboard," Gaffney said. "Everything that comes over the net, she puts back into play. She doesn't give any cheap points."

Gaffney has been impressed with his No. 1 doubles team _ Hanson and senior Nicole Feldman, the Hurricanes' top singles player.

CHARTING LECANTO: How does this Lecanto girls squad compare to the one that tied for third at state in 2001?

So far, pretty well.

The Panthers were 10-0 prior to Wednesday's home match against North Marion.

"We're playing well," Roberts said. "If we can keep healthy, we'll be in pretty good shape.

"This is a strong team. It just depends on if they can all stay in shape and play their games at district, regionals and on to state."

_ KEITH NIEBUHR

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