TAHOE CITY — The days of the North Tahoe soccer teams competing against larger schools for state championships are over.
Nevertheless, the Laker boys will have to take care of business just the same if they want to achieve their annual goal.
“It will be the first year not playing South Tahoe, Sparks and Truckee in league. It’s going to be a little different,” said longtime North Tahoe boys coach Beto Alcaraz, whose Lakers own six state titles — four under Alcaraz — which is second-most in Nevada history.
“But the challenge is still there. We have to go wherever we have to go and beat whoever we need to beat to go all the way, because that’s our goal, every year — but I think more realistically this year.”
North Tahoe, a Division III school, traditionally played among the larger and more competitive Division I-A in soccer. A handful of DIII schools have developed soccer programs in recent years, however, enough to conduct their own league and playoffs.
Last year, after competing against a mix of DI-A and DIII schools during the regular season, the NIAA split the smaller schools into their own postseason. Incline’s boys won both the state championship after defeating North Tahoe 1-0 in the semifinal round. This year marks the first full season the smaller schools are on their own.
“Incline has a good team, and Whittell, but we shouldn’t take the other teams lightly,” Alcaraz said, referring to the Lakers’ lesser-known opponents from eastern Nevada — White Pine, West Wendover, Battle Mountain, etc. “We have to go out and be consistent right from the starting whistle to the end of the game.”
So far Alcaraz likes what he sees with his team, which returns a large handful of talented players from last year’s squad, with seven seniors leading the way.
“I think we’re looking really good. I think we’re passing the ball very well. We just need to work on our conditioning a little bit, because we missed so many days because of the air quality,” Alcaraz said. “But I think the talent is there, definitely.”
Top returners include the Lakers’ three senior captains, Wildon DesLauriers, Alex Tyler and goalie Omar Vargas, among others.
Alcaraz described Tyler as a scrappy defender and DesLauriers as a speedy midfielder or forward. Vargas has already made a number of highlight saves in the early going of the season.
Senior Jose Chavez, last year’s starting goalie and this year’s backup at the position, joins quick-footed senior Adrian Ortega and sometimes freshman Jesus Ortega up front, Alcaraz said, while midfielders include DesLauriers, juniors Lucas Early and Chase Whitney and sophomores Omar Cerda and Mason Wittels.
Tyler and junior sweeper Angel Guerrero hold down the defense along with senior Garret Driller, sophomores Miguel Lara and Angel Lopez and freshman Edgar Munoz. Senior Alexis Herrera and junior Edgar Delgado are listed as forwards.
Despite some cancelations due to the smoke caused by the Rim and American fires, the Lakers have squeezed in three preseason games against California opponents. They went 1-2 in those contests but impressed their coach in a number of ways.
“I like our quickness and our passing. We’re a dynamic team. And we play as a team, which is great,” Alcaraz said. “Everybody is chipping in. So I think our strength is our unity. We just need to work on conditioning.”
Alcaraz said while the Lakers’ goal every year remains the same — win state — they have to be careful not to look too far ahead.
“Our goal is to go to state and win it, not just to go. But we have to take it one game at a time,” he said. “We’ve had some good preseason games, and I think that’s going to help our boys get prepared for our first league game at Battle Mountain Friday.”