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Warriors try to leave mark

There were no tournaments for Osceola this season. No chance to gain special recognition. The Warriors lost out on a chance to play for Pinellas County's title because they tied Dixie Hollins, a team with less than half as many wins as it has losses.

And Osceola (8-2-3) finished second in a district to Palmetto, the No. 2 ranked team in the state. This week's Class 4A, District 13 tournament is a chance for the Warriors to extend their 13-game season into something more.

Osceola coach Tim Rachford said this team has as good of skills as the two squads that went to the state final four in 1998 and 1999, finishing second both times. The Warriors have to win at least one game this week to prove it.

Although Osceola's entire defense graduated last year, the Warriors have gotten solid play from the underclassmen and senior keeper Ricky Bose. But the Warriors' biggest asset may be scoring. Jason Villalba, Thomas Schreck and Brent Spyker, who lead the team in scoring, have the ability to take over a game and create chances.

The Warriors play Lakewood on Wednesday in the district semifinal. The winner advances to the region tournament and likely play Palmetto in the final.

"I can't imagine facing two teams tougher than Lakewood and Palmetto before the state final four," Rachford said.

He thinks if the Warriors survive this week, they already will have gotten past the hard part. Although both of Osceola's losses were to Palmetto, Rachford said what scares him most is playing the Spartans again.

Lakewood and Osceola played in the season opener. The Warriors walked away with a 2-0 win. The Spartans walked away anticipating a rematch.

The second game was in early January. It was Schreck's first game back after missing three months with a broken foot. The Warriors almost lost, falling behind 0-2 at halftime, but they came back to tie. Lakewood coach Istvan Horvath said it was enough to give the Spartans the confidence they could win.

"They were more prepared than us, but we knew it wouldn't be easy," Villalba said. "The same way we wanted Palmetto, they wanted us."

Osceola has had almost two weeks off _ ample time to refresh and regroup for the postseason.

"I've been trying to reinforce how important next week is," Rachford said. "If we go out and get beaten and play our best game, I can live with that."

If the Warriors have it their way, their best will be enough to win.