TRUCKEE, Calif. — Never did a 1-0 lead feel so unsafe.
The Truckee boys scored early in the first half of their Northern Division I-A soccer match against visiting Sparks on Friday and managed to hang on for the narrow shutout victory, despite a number of near equalizers by Railroaders.
“That was a little scary. We would have liked to have had an insurance goal,” said Truckee coach Casey Eberhardt. “So that was kind of stressful on the sideline. It was definitely a battle in the second half.”
About 10 minutes into the contest, Truckee junior Thomas Arnstein lofted a long free kick to the front of the goal, and senior Rolando Zarate in heavy traffic kicked the ball into the back of the net before goalie Ronaldo Hernandez could corral it.
The Railroaders had their chances to knot the score — and they might have if not for the skilled play of sophomore goalie Gabriel Serna.
Serna made several quick-reflex saves in the first half alone. Twice he denied the Railroaders’ Ruben Pacheco on breakaway, one-on-one attacks, while he ended the half with a diving block to his left.
“Gabby was great,” Eberhardt said of his goalie. “If not for him we would have lost. He showed great reflexes. He came out when he had to and he played big.”
Despite the solid play of Serna, Pacheco appeared to score the tying goal in the 25th minute when he headed in the rebound of a bicycle-kick shot attempt that ricocheted off the crossbar. But the officials ruled Sparks offside and discounted the goal.
“I felt like we controlled the whole game, to be honest. We outshot them,” said Sparks coach Frank Avilla, as the Railroaders got off 27 shots to the Wolverines’ 11. “We just didn’t finish. Credit to their goalie. I see why Casey has him in there.”
Sparks continued to press the Truckee goal in the second half, but to no avail as the Wolverines’ defense led by Max Barta, Will Krengel, Nick Oberriter and Oscar Martinez bent but never broke. “The defense definitely stepped up,” Eberhardt said.
The Wolverines were not without their own chances offensively. The most promising opportunity came around the 70th minute, when sophomore Alex Colomenares’ open shot attempt sailed just high and wide of the goal.
Play remained physical throughout the contest, with 24 penalties in total, 17 of which went against the hosts.
“Truckee is a good, strong team. They’re very physical. We weren’t ready for it, and that’s my fault as head coach,” Avilla said. “Hats off to Truckee. But I promise we’ll be ready when they come to our house.”
Truckee improved to 4-0-1 overall and 3-0-1 in Northern Division I-A league play. Sparks fell to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in league.
Both Truckee squads host Incline on Monday, girls at 3 p.m. and boys at 5. The boys then hit the road for leagues games at Sparks on Wednesday, Elko on Friday and Spring Creek on Saturday.
The Truckee girls shut out Sparks 5-0 on the road Friday.