INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - The elusive second goal against rival Incline never found net, and as a result, the North Tahoe boys soccer team will have to be content with a No. 3 seed in the state championship tournament.
The Lakers, seeded fourth in the Northern Division III regionals due to a funky power rankings system, nearly scored the equalizing goal on several occasions in their regional semifinal against top-seeded Incline on Friday. But in the end the Highlanders held on for the 2-1 victory.
Incline, which hosted the tournament, went on to defeat Whittell 3-0 the following day for the regional title, and top Northern seed entering state. The Lakers secured a state championship berth with a 5-2 win over Yerington on Saturday.
"We just missed," North Tahoe head coach Beto Alcaraz said of the Lakers' semifinal loss. "We had a lot of close goals, but if you don't put them in, they don't count."
Despite the Lakers' high energy, which was further stoked by a lively crowd of supporters, the Highlanders jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after a goal by Luis Munoz in the seventh minute.
The hosts added to the lead with a goal by Kyle Reeves in the 28th minute.
The deficit did not dampen North Tahoe's spirits, however. About five minutes later, sophomore Lucas Early booted the rebound of a corner kick out of the air and into the back of the net to cut the Incline lead in half.
North Tahoe came out hard in the second half, pressuring the Incline goal with a relentless offensive attack. But the tying goal never came as the Highlanders defended their goal with tenacity until the final whistle.
"We pressured well, we challenged balls, we hustled everywhere and we were passing well," Alcaraz said. "The only thing is we didn't finish."
The Lakers received a solid performance from backup goalie Jose Chavez, who replaced starter Omar Vargas after the junior keeper was kicked in the head midway through the first half.
The next day in the consolation final, Danny Garcia scored two goals to help lift North Tahoe to a 5-2 win over third-seeded Yerington. Eduardo Martinez, Nico Monforte and Garrett Driller added a goal apiece in the win.