BRADENTON -- In the aftermath of Manatee's five-game loss to Palm Harbor University last week, Hurricanes coach Rachel Batey promised better days lay ahead for her volleyball team.
The Hurricanes just needed to hone their mental toughness.
They took a big step toward doing so Wednesday night, beating rival Lakewood Ranch 3-2 after dropping two of the first three games.
The Hurricanes (4-2) had plenty of chances to fold, especially when the Mustangs closed the Game 5 deficit to 14-13.
But Jacqui Armer's kill clinched it, and Manatee takes some momentum into Thursday's district match against Riverview.
"It really helps us and makes us more mentally tough, like Coach Rachel said," said Armer, a sophomore who had 15 kills, "and preparing us for future games."
Manatee cruised in Game 1, winning 25-12, before the
Mustangs (12-4) rolled in Games 2 (25-19) and Game 3 (25-19).
The third game was knotted at 18 before Coleen Campbell's kill gave Ranch a 19-18 lead, and two kills by Kelly Ainsworth help salt away the win.
"We made errors in the first game and the fourth," said Lakewood Ranch coach Perri Hankins, whose team surrendered the final six points in a 25-18 loss in Game 4. "It wasn't anything (Manatee) was doing. ... We had two or three errors in a row. And we're doing better all the time, but if you make a mistake, that next ball has to be in. Sometimes, that next ball hasn't been in for us."
The Canes got off to a 9-3 lead in Game 5 before staving off one final rally from Ranch. Becca Butler had three of her 10 kills for Manatee during the finale.
"We just cleaned it up and had a cleaner game," Armer said. "We pulled it together."
The two teams could meet again this weekend when Lakewood Ranch hosts the county tournament Friday and Saturday.
"Fifth games are just tough because they're to 15," Hankins said. "And they got a little lead on us, and that doesn't help."