PALMETTO -- Don't expect Palmetto and Lakewood Ranch to close the books on their boys soccer rivalry anytime soon.
They compete in different districts in Class 4A, making their regular-season matchups nothing more than postseason tune-ups.
But in the aftermath of the Tigers' 3-2 win Wednesday at Harllee Stadium, each coach walked away saying his team got better.
For the Mustangs, who received a terrific second-half performance from backup goalie Nico Dangond (eight saves), it was a chance to piece together a team fighting the injury bug.
The Tigers learned how important it is to administer a knockout blow to a team as pesky as the Mustangs, who coach Dustin Dahlquist called "the hardest-working team we've played so far."
Consequently, the Palmetto-Lakewood Ranch boys soccer rivalry has legs.
"We're trying to get the kids in the right spot, and it's almost there," Mustangs coach Vito Bavaro said. "We learned a lot (Wednesday); this is better than a win for us, because we learned what kids can do and what they can't do, and who can step up.
"I always like playing Palmetto because it's a tough game. And me and Dustin coach very similar, so it's fun to watch."
The Mustangs (2-4-2) took a quick lead on Ryan Sollazzo's goal during the fourth minute. The Tigers, however, drew even three minutes later on a goal by Javis Paniagua, who added another midway through the half.
Gregorio Calvillo, who set a single-season program record last season with 43 goals, scored three minutes before halftime for the Tigers (8-1).
Palmetto looked poised to break the game open early in the second half but was stonewalled by Dangond, who was in goal while starter Liam Bramley recovers from an injury.
And the Mustangs cut the deficit in half when Nico's brother, Felipe, scored during the 66th minute. Felipe nearly knotted the game up four minutes later, but his shot from the top of the goalie box nicked off the crossbar.
"Lakewood Ranch, I thought, played outstanding. I thought we played a pretty good game ourselves -- at least three quarters of it," Dahlquist said. "Anytime us and Lakewood Ranch get together in boys soccer, I don't care what the records, it's a great soccer game."
Palmetto hosts St. Petersburg Northeast in a District 10 game Friday while the Mustangs host Sarasota on Friday in a District 11 contest.
"Getting experience against a team like Lakewood Ranch, as much as they hustle ... they made us work," Dahlquist said, "and we worked hard ourselves."