LAKEWOOD RANCH --It was a little too close for comfort, but at this point of the season the only thing that matters is winning.
The undefeated Lakewood Ranch (21-0-1) girls soccer team got that in edging visiting Naples Gulf Coast 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A-Region 3 tournament Thursday.
Gulf Coast came into the contest with a mundane 10-9-1 record, but gave the Mustangs fits, keeping them on their heels all night.
The only goal was scored by senior Delaney Riggins on an assist from Sophia Falco with 17 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the first half.
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"Luckily, Sophia pressured the ball and the goalie wasn't in the goal when I shot it. I saw the goalie out of the box and thought I would shoot it before she got back in," Riggins said. "The whole team worked really hard. I couldn't have done it without them. Their defense was pretty good, and their goalie was awesome but we pulled it out. It was tougher than expected, but I don't think we came in over confident."
Lakewood Ranch bombarded the nets with 15 shots on goal. Gulf Coast had 14 shots on goal and Mustangs goalie Alex Latham had nine saves to give her 74 for the season.
"It was tougher than we thought it would be. It wasn't quite what I had in mind, but we squeaked it through. A win is a win and we will move on," Lakewood Ranch head coach Guy Virgilio said. "You know you can depend on Delaney. You know she is going to try and get into mix. She works hard so hard. She has not quite gotten the chances this year that she normally does and I was kind of glad to see her get that."
Gulf Coast jammed Lakewood Ranch up in the middle of the field and the Mustangs were rarely ever to get a good possession. When they did the Sharks would often get it back in winning most of the 50-50 balls.
"With the defense we have we were able to shut them down," Virgilio said. "Our defense played another phenomenal game. We just need to work on midfield and see if we can get some of the possessions back and be able to start moving the ball like we should. I hate to think we took them lightly."
Lakewood Ranch has scored 80 goals and allowed only seven for the season in winning its 20th straight match. Gulf Coast came in with 69 goals while allowing 29.
Lakewood Ranch will be at home Tuesday against District 12 champion Fort Myers Riverdale (15-0-4).