TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Everything about Thursday's Mount Rose League clash on Dollar Hill indicated that a rival was in town — from the soccer-hooligan-loud fans to the physically intense action on the field.
Competing in front of a screaming crowd of dedicated fans, the majority of them girls soccer players from both schools, the Whittell boys better capitalized on their scoring opportunities to earn a hard-fought, and sometimes contentious 3-1 win over the Lakers.
“These two teams are very evenly matched, and when you have a rivalry like this, it can get chippy at times,” said Whittell boys coach Royal Good.
The girls, meanwhile, took part in two spirited competitions. After North Tahoe earned a 1-0 win in a closely contested game, both teams posted up in the bleachers and waged a boisterous rooting competition as the boys went to battle.
Play remained even between the North Tahoe and Whittell boys for much of the 80 minutes.
About 28 minutes into the contest, Whittell's Palmer Chaplin crossed a ball to Mark Waite directly in front of the goal, where he and North Tahoe goalie Jose Chavez collided as they converged on it. Chavez took the brunt of the collision as the ball shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 Whittell lead.
The Lakers answered with an equalizer 2 minutes into the second half when Trevor Semmens sent a corner kick into a crowd in front of the goal and Riley McCarthy headed the ball past Whittell keeper Aubrey Felton, who was filling in for injured starter Austin Neil.
The home team did not have long to enjoy it. Just 2 minutes later, Waite burned a North Tahoe defender near midfield and drove all the way to about the 18-yard box, where he slowed up and blasted a kick into the upper-right corner of the goal, out of the reach of Chavez.
Nine minutes after that, Chaplin delivered a low corner kick to the near side of the goal, and a streaking Marshall Neil got a foot on it just ahead of the defending Lucas Early. Chavez, who made several nice saves in the game, set up the corner kick with a diving denial of a promising shot by Waite moments earlier.
The goal gave the Warriors a 3-1 advantage while noticeably dampening the Lakers' spirits. Austin Neil, who's nursing an injured hip, also returned to his goalie position for the majority of the second half, further limiting North Tahoe's chances for a comeback.
“We didn't play that bad. There were just times when they beat us to the ball and caught us flat-footed,” said North Tahoe head coach Beto Alcaraz. “It looked like they wanted it more than us. They were getting to the ball first.”
While Good said he was pleased with the way his team converted its opportunities, he conceded that the Lakers had just as many scoring chances in the game, perhaps more.
“It was a very good game,” he said. “The first half we were a little sloppy. It wasn't as good of a first half as I wanted. But that first goal was huge. North Tahoe matched us pretty evenly. I give it up to them.”
Whittell is now 9-1 overall and 1-1 in Mount Rose League play. North Tahoe is 4-5 overall and 0-2 in league.
The Whittell and North Tahoe girls would have played to a scoreless deadlock had it not been for a key play by a couple of substitutes in the first half.
About 25 minutes into the game, Sara Trimm dished off a pass to Audrey Johnson, who found some open space and slotted the ball past Whittell goalie Brittany Boulet for a 1-0 lead.
“We were kind of lucky to score that goal,” said North Tahoe head coach Jon Rockwood. “Hats off to the subs who scored it. That was true sub fashion right there. They came in and were game-changers.”
The Lakers might have added to their lead had it not been for the skilled goalie work of Boulet, who stopped several near goals in the game.
“Their goalie played a fantastic game,” Rockwood said. “She was always well positioned. We took some great shots that she cut off the angle on.”
Then again, the Warriors could easily have gotten on the board as well, but North Tahoe keeper Angela Wood played her own solid game in the goal to help boost the Lakers' confidence, Rockwood said.
“Angela, whether she knows it or not, carries this team,” he said of his junior goalie. “She had three or four saves that were just great. Her reflexes are super fast. She came up big.”
Whittell's most promising scoring opportunity came midway through the second half when Kenya Maltase had a breakaway run toward the goal. But North Tahoe sweeper Kami Abi-Nader used her speed to catch Maltase from behind and break up the play.
Shortly after, Maltase blasted a shot that Wood dove to save, while in the final 30 seconds of the game, Skylar Smith took a shot that sailed just left of the goal.
“Whittell played well. It was a very, very even game. It could have gone either way,” Rockwood said. “It's always a fun game. We can't wait to play them again.”
“It was a good game,” Whittell head coach Patrick Kelly agreed. “North Tahoe has a really talented squad. They came out and played hard. It's always tough to play on the road in this league.”
North Tahoe improved to 4-4-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Mount Rose League play, while Whittell fell to 8-2-1 overall and 0-1-1 in the MRL.