The Lakers never quite solved the Highlanders this year.
After three narrow defeats at the hands of their lakeside rival, the third-seeded North Tahoe boys soccer team lost 1-0 to Incline in the semifinal round of the Division III state championship tournament in Henderson on Friday.
"We played well, like always. We just couldn't finish," said North Tahoe head coach Beto Alcaraz, adding that his team had one near goal bounce off the post. "It was an even game, just like the other ones we played against Incline. I thought we played a good game."
The Highlanders, seeded No. 1 from the North, went on to defeat Whittell 4-3 in overtime the next day to win the Division III state title. It was the first year the Division III (formerly 2A) held a separate state championship tournament from the Division I-A (formerly 3A).
Alcaraz described Incline's one goal as "unfortunate," as the Highlanders fired a long, high shot late in the first half that was seemingly headed over the goal, but instead got caught in the high wind and wound up in the Laker goal.
"I thought it hit from behind the goal. But that was it," Alcaraz said.
The coach said his players, especially the six seniors, were disappointed with the result, but he was pleased with their effort and marked improvement from a season ago.
"Overall, I think we had a great season," he said. "I'm very proud of the boys, with how they played and how they improved from last year. You could see it in their passing and trapping and technical skills. I'm really happy about that. I'm very happy with the success of the season."
In the girls state tournament, top-seeded Incline defeated White Pine 5-0 in the semifinal before shutting out Whittell 4-0 for the championship.