TRUCKEE - What began as a couple of tightly contested soccer games between historic rivals North Tahoe and Truckee on Thursday turned into easy wins for the Wolverines after the hosts exploded for big second halves.
The girls game remained knotted in a scoreless tie through one half but finished in a 4-1 Truckee win.
The Truckee boys held a 1-0 lead at the half before North Tahoe evened the score midway through the second. But the Wolverines woke up late to score three unanswered goals en route to the 4-1 win.
Following a senior farewell ceremony between games, the North Tahoe boys played the hosts evenly through most of the opening half as Truckee started all 11 of its seniors.
Finally in the 34th minute, Truckee senior Jose Sarabia took over possession from teammate Jordan Fereira as Fereira worked against a defender and blasted a hard shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Sarabia, feeling his oats in front of the large home crowd at Surprise Stadium, celebrated by stripping off his shirt and flexing toward the crowd, which earned him a yellow card.
The second half started much like the first, with even play in the midfield, and neither team able to string together passes or sustain momentum.
Then in the 63rd minute, North Tahoe senior Nico Monforte crossed a ball from the wing to the front of the goal, where Trevor Semmens deftly headed it out of the air and past Truckee goalie Nacho Diaz.
Suddenly, the Wolverines' first-place status in the Mount Rose League was in jeopardy. And that was all the motivation they needed.
About three minutes later, Truckee worked the ball up field with several quick passes before senior Nash McMullen dished off to Fernando Rodriguez, who one-touched a low ball just inside the right post, past the diving reach of goalie Omar Vargas.
Truckee quickly added to the lead, tacking on goals in the 69th and 70th minutes off of corner kicks. Rolando Zarate took both corners, the first of which was headed into the goal by Sarabia, and the second by McMullen.
"Their second goal took the wind out of our sails," said North Tahoe boys coach Beto Alcaraz. "We hung with them for about 70 minutes. We played beautifully. It's too bad. But that's the way it goes sometimes."
Truckee head coach Casey Eberhardt said his team has struggled at times this season to get off to fast starts, which again was the case Thursday.
"That's kind of been a problem for us, not having the spark to start. We got the one goal and then kind of took a back seat. It took their one goal to fire us up to bounce back," Eberhardt said. "But they (the Lakers) played us tough. They are a good team. We let them hang in it, and you can't let good teams hang or they're going to get a goal sooner or later. I give them credit."
With the win Truckee improved to 7-1 in Mount Rose League play and 21-2 overall. North Tahoe is 1-6-1 in league. Truckee currently owns the league tiebreaker over Sparks based on defeating the Railroaders in the teams' second meeting.
"We couldn't afford a tie at this point in league, so there was a sense of urgency and a desire to win," Eberhardt said.
Much like the boys game, the girls played an uneventful first half in which neither team mounted any offense.
After some motivational words by their coach during a halftime speech, however, the Wolverines looked like a different team after the break.
Just five minutes in to the second half, senior Olivia Duner crossed a ball to Ashley Harris, who kicked it past the dive of goalie Angela Wood for a 1-0 Truckee lead.
Truckee cushioned its lead with three goals in about a seven-minute span shortly after.
After collecting a through ball from Kaylee Neill, Quinn Parker fired a shot on a breakaway that was skillfully saved by Wood. But Truckee senior Melissa Cardoza was in perfect position to follow up the rebound, which extended the lead to 2-0.
Less than two minutes later, Cardoza again followed the rebound of a shot by Neill, pushing the lead to 3-0. Just minutes later, Emma Warren got in on the scoring with yet another goal off of a rebound, as she cleaned up a shot by Cardoza that bounced off the post and directly to her.
"I thought the first half was relatively even, although they did have more scoring opportunities than we did," said North Tahoe head coach Jon Rockwood. "The second half I saw a little bit of flat-footedness. Truckee was relentless and determined to finish, even with junk rebounds."
The Lakers did not throw in the towel. Trailing 4-0 in the 74th minute, sophomore Francesca English gathered an assist from Bozhie Pokorny and kicked it past Truckee goalie Cassandra Sawyer to adjust the final score to 4-1.
"I'm really proud that we were able to put one on the board," Rockwood said. "Francesca was determined to put the ball in the back of the net."
Truckee head coach Katie Jamison said she was pleased with the way her team responded after a sloppy first half, as the Wolverines controlled the action the majority of the final 40 minutes.
"It was much better," she said of the second half. "We were actually connecting our passes, maintaining our composure and putting the ball where it needed to go.
"It was senior farewell, so all nine seniors started, and not necessarily in positions they're used to playing," Jamison continued. "So that was tricky. But they settled in and did OK."
About her halftime speech, Jamison added: "Every now and then they need a reality check that it's not going to come easy. They need to work hard and strive for it."
Truckee is now 6-0-2 in league play and 18-3-2 overall. North Tahoe is 2-4-2 in league and 5-8-2 overall.