BRADENTON -- Soccer is a fickle game, sometimes.
You can dominate possession and take more shots than your opponent.
But the only number that matters is how many goals you score.
That's the beauty of the sport, and Lakewood Ranch (16-0-1) was the benefactor of getting just enough to edge host Manatee 2-1 in a non-district girls soccer match Friday night.
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The Hurricanes owned an 11-5 shot advantage.
"Anytime you play Manatee, I expect to be challenged," Lakewood Ranch head coach Guy Virgilio said. "And I expect these girls to be under pressure, and that's one of the reasons why we play them. But somehow, we were able to squeak through it."
Battling chilly conditions, the two teams played their first game since the holiday break began. Many of the Manatee and Ranch players are teammates at the club level with the Braden River Rage. And that team just played in a tournament in Orlando.
That familiarity with each other, coupled with recent match activity, made for a crisp effort from both sides.
Ranch pipped the first goal when Sophia Falco found the net in the fourth minute. Manatee, though, answered through Sarah Wasser just 15 minutes later.
That's how the score stayed until eight minutes remaining.
That's when Falco reached onto a long clearance from her back line and beat Manatee's keeper in a one-on-one situation for the game-winner.
Up until then, though, the Hurricanes created more chances and possessed the ball at a higher rate than the Mustangs.
"We just weren't able to finish," Manatee head coach George Ameres said. "We made a lot of mistakes in the final third when we created our opportunities."
The teams won't face each other come playoff time, but both gain confidence moving toward the district tournaments in just a couple weeks.
Virgilio said he learned his team has a few holes to work on as it prepares for the postseason after the way Manatee put his side under pressure.
"We need to find a way to control the ball more," Virgilio said. "We seem to get rid of more, instead of holding the ball and finding the space."
For Ameres, playing a side like the Mustangs as well as the Canes did Friday bodes well moving forward.
"Lakewood Ranch is better than what we'll see in districts," Ameres said. "So to be able to hang with Lakewood Ranch and be able to possess the ball and control the majority of the game gives us a lot of confidence going into our district matches against teams that aren't as good."