Prep Rally | Lakewood Ranch girls soccer team hopes being home pays off

January 31, 2014 

BRADENTON

Homefield advantage often gets the shaft in prep sports.

So maybe you don't get to play in front of 85,000 rabid fans, or play in a ballpark tailored to your team's strengths.

But it has its perks.

Lakewood Ranch doesn't have to hit the road for Friday's Region 3 championship game, which means the Mustangs can maintain their daily routine prior to playing one of the biggest girls soccer games in program history.

Athletes, even those with the student prefix, are creatures of habit. Things are done a certain way and at a certain time, and a slight alteration of a routine

could throw a wrench into the whole machine.

So rather than hop on a bus and head to Seminole on Friday, which is never an easy trip, the Mustangs can maybe head home after school and decompress for a bit.

They can take a physical and mental break without worrying about traffic or where to get a pre- or post-game meal or anything else that comes with travel.

Then there is the field itself.

Lakewood Ranch knows its field, knows how the ball bounces in certain spots, knows what part of it puddles up in case of rain.

Seminole doesn't. Sounds minor, but it makes a difference.

Of course, home-field advantage doesn't guarantee anything in the preps just as it doesn't guarantee anything in college and the pros.

The game is still decided on the field, wherever that field may be. And since there is a wide discrepancy of talent at the high school level, some results wouldn't change even if the games were played in the parking lot of a supermarket.

But don't discard prep stadiums altogether.

Home field still brings comfort and poise, it brings a knowledge, an understanding that, when heading into the biggest game of the season, you don't have to worry about a bus trip across a bay and over a bridge.

Of course, this is the last time the Mustangs will get to bask in such a benefit -- a win Friday night sends them to the Class 4A state final four in Melbourne.

But for the biggest game of the year up to this point, undefeated Lakewood Ranch gets to stay home and wait for Seminole to rumble over the Sunshine Skyway.

It doesn't guarantee anything.

But staying home doesn't hurt, either.

John Lembo, prep sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @JohnLembo1878.

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