As the sun set on a seemingly quiet Monday night in South Shore, a battle between Viking and Warrior was raging on Whittell's end of town.
The crosstown rivals brought their best fight to the pitch Monday as the Vikings edged out the Warriors in the annual soccer showdown. The Viking girls opened with a 4-0 win and the Viking boys ended the battle with a 3-1 victory.
In all likelihood, the South Shore matches may end here. Whittell likely will drop a division by next year due to a smaller school size.
It's bittersweet, really. Dropping a division is the fair move, but the two South Shore teams clearly look forward to the rival match. Both teams left it all on the field Monday.
"They play together, they respect each other, they love each other. It's just when you take the field, it's battle," Vikings assistant coach Bill Spicer said.
Viking boys hold their own
The net flexed to its limit as Austin Williams blasted in South Tahoe's second goal with a rocket shot that gave Whittell zero time to react.
Williams had just arched a huge cross into the goal from deep in the wings to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead in the second half.
The game was evenly matched in the first half. The scoreless battle was finally broken up when Jesus Martinez drew out Whittell's goalkeeper on a breakaway run in the final minutes of the first half.
The Warriors pulled up even with the Vikings with a penalty shot, put away by defender Spenser Buchholz.
Buchholz was the cornerstone of the Warriors' defense, and together with Derek Heldt-Werle, Max Rungruengprasit and Rodney Aguirre-Rodriguez, the boys handled constant Viking pressure.
"Whittell wants it when we play, and they played really well," Spicer said.
Warriors coach Royal Good has seen the boys play better though.
"We just weren't prepared tonight and it showed," Good said. "We had glimpses of good play, but on the whole we didn't play the kind of soccer that we can and we're capable of. Nothing to take away from South Tahoe they played a great game."
South Tahoe's defense was firing on all cylinders with Ozzy Rosas and Christian Navarro leading the effort. The boys held the Warriors to their one penalty shot.
Gustavo Yanez dropped in the final goal for South Tahoe off a cross from Diego Garcia. Yanez put up an incredible offensive effort all night for the Vikings, Spicer said.
"He went to the next level tonight," Spicer said. "He was not only able to score the goal, but just his ball control and desire was obviously above where it's been so he just stepped up to the next level."
South Tahoe is now 2-1 in league and Whittell is 3-3 in league.
Lady Vikings lead charge
Whittell gave the Vikings a break. The Warriors deflected an own goal into their net in an otherwise scoreless first half.
"We're definitely patient, but it took us way too long to get up and go," Vikings coach Chris De Leon said.
The second half was not the same story. The Vikings maintained control in the Warriors' zone for most of the remaining time. Alisa Caro struck first for the Vikings, following a pass from Ally King into the net.
It didn't take long for Kendall Eagan to add some insurance. Eagan deflected in South Tahoe's third goal off a perfect cross from Jordyn Dion.
The Vikings notched their fourth and final goal in a four-pronged attack on the net. The Vikings hit the Warriors' goalkeeper with follow-up after follow-up, until Grace Schouten finally found net.
The low score was actually pretty miraculous considering South Tahoe was knocking on Whittell's door nonstop for 80 minutes.
"I was nervous the whole time," Whittell goalkeeper Brittany Boulet said. "They are a really tough team, but we hung in there. This is the best score it's been in a long time."
Whittell hung in there in large part to Boulet's goalkeeper efforts. South Tahoe continually peppered her with shots, but Boulet came away with several spectacular fingertip blocks and recorded 18 saves total.
"We peppered her. She was at the right place at the right time," De Leon said. "She definitely kept them in the game and made us shoot from afar. We had to work from outside the box to get those shots."
Whittell's Sabrina Trechsel and Jenny Shepack were a big part of that containment effort with their ball handling skills.
South Tahoe is now 3-0 in league and 11-1 overall, and Whittell is 1-4 in league and 11-4 overall.