Florida Girls' Lacrosse Championship Preview

Four teams are ready to face off for the ultimate prize this weekend as the Florida High School Athletic Association girls' lacrosse Final Four gets underway Friday in Winter Garden. Vero Beach enters as the clear favorite and could notch its 60th-straight victory should they win out. However, Winter Springs, Lake Brantley and Pine Crest all enter semifinal action red hot and are hoping for an opportunity to upset the Indians and take home the 2011 championship.

Semifinals: Winter Springs vs. Pine Crest, 2 PM Friday

In the opening semifinal game of the day, Pine Crest hopes to notch its first-ever Final Four victory against perennial force Winter Springs. After losing three of its final four regular season games, things were looking pretty bleak for the Panthers (15-6 overall). However, behind consistent offensive contributions and a commitment to aggressive defense, the team has quickly rebounded in the playoffs and posted quality wins over Palmer Trinity, Cardinal Gibbons and Pope John Paul II en route to the semifinals.

However, the Panthers now take on an opponent they recently struggled against. Back on April 16, Winter Springs easily dispatched Pine Crest by the score of 20-9. On this occasion, the Panthers will look for major contributions from midfielder Emily Becker and teammate Allie Shapiro on the offensive end. The two standouts have combined for 125 goals so far this season.

Meanwhile, Winter Springs (18-4) is one playoff team that many opposing squads would prefer not to have to go up against. The Bears who are playing in their third-straight Final Four have outscored their playoff opponents by 43 goals. Since starting the season with a 2-3 record, Winter Springs has now won 16 of its last 17 games while averaging 18 goals per game during that span. Amanda Guthrie serves as the team's shutdown defender and will likely get the assignment of taking on Becker or Shapiro. Offensively, Kenna Wick, senior attack Alley Rhinehart and teammate Kris Coppolino have been steady all season long and will likely draw double teams throughout Friday's affair.

Semifinals: Vero Beach vs. Lake Brantley, 5 PM Friday

In the second semifinal game of the day, Vero Beach takes on Lake Brantley in a rematch of last season's title contest. The Indians (20-0) have been absolutely dominant against fellow Florida teams this season, with their closest game being a 17-6 result against Lake Brantley back on April 2.

As for playoff action, Vero Beach breezed to the semifinals, outscoring its competition 86-7 through four postseason games. Behind elite playmakers Courtney Swan, Mackenzie Smith and Lucy Sexton, the Indians are now making their sixth-straight final four appearance. Expect defenders Olivia Long (Johns Hopkins) and Lindsey Dunne to give opponents some major match-up problems. The pair heads up one of the nation's top defensive units, which is yielding just 3.5 goals per game.

While the Indians are the heavy favorites to take home the hardware in '11, they must first get past a tough Lake Brantley team that's historically played them close in recent years. In recent playoff action, Vero Beach edged the Patriots, 10-9, in the '10 championship game. Lake Brantley will likely need huge efforts from senior midfielder Chelsea Pinneke, senior attacker Katie Trahanas and midfielder Kaleigh Henry to prevail on Friday. Following that loss to Vero Beach in early April, the Patriots have won nine games in a row and scored 10 or more goals in each of those games.

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