INCLINE VILLAGE – The lake schools prevailed in the Northern Division III regional soccer championships.
On the second sunny day of competition at Incline’s Highlander Stadium on Saturday, North Tahoe kicked off the action with a 2-0 win over White Pine in the girls consolation final, securing the Lakers the third and final state championship seed.
The Whittell boys, losers of a heartbreaking double-overtime battle against North Tahoe on Friday night, breezed through their consolation final against White Pine, 8-1, to earn the third state seed.
Next up was the regional championship between the Whittell and Incline girls, seeded 1 and 2 in the tournament, respectively. After splitting their two regular-season meetings, Incline took Round 3. The Highlanders scored in the opening minute of the contest and held on for the 2-1 win.
The nightcap, the boys regional final between Incline and North Tahoe, did not disappoint. In a physical, back-and-forth affair, the host Highlanders finally came out on top, 3-2, with a sudden-death goal in the fourth minute of overtime.
That sends both the Incline boys and girls to the Division III state championship tournament at Fernley High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15-16, as the North’s top seeds.
The Whittell girls (No. 2 North) start off Friday’s semifinal round of the state tournament against Adelson (No. 1 South) at noon.
The North Tahoe boys (No. 2 North) follow at 2 p.m. against The Meadows (No. 1 South), the Incline girls (No. 1 North) play North Tahoe (No. 3 North) at 4 p.m., and the Incline boys (No. 1 North) play Whittell (No. 3 North) at 6 p.m.
The girls state championship is Saturday at 11 a.m. The boys title game is at 1 p.m.
GIRLS CONSOLATION FINAL
The North Tahoe girls were impressed with White Pine goalie Amanda Allred during the regular season. They were again Saturday.
The Lakers controlled possession from the start while peppering the Bobcats’ goal with 29 shots in the game. Allred made one big save after another, however, and the game remained scoreless through the first 62 minutes.
North Tahoe sophomore Bryn Anderson finally broke the scoreless stalemate midway through the second half when she slipped an angled shot past Allred and into the side netting.
A few minutes later, Sara Trimm dished a pass to Haley Perkins, who kicked in the Lakers’ second goal from an even tougher angle than Anderson’s.
“Absolutely, that was a relief,” North Tahoe senior captain Kami Abi-Nader said of the first score. “Their goalie is a superstar, so we were really relieved when we finally stuck it in the back of the net.”
The Lakers continued their barrage on the goal but did not score again. Allred left the game late after diving for a ball and absorbing a point-blank shot attempt by Trimm. After remaining down for several minutes, the senior goalie walked off the field with help from her coach.
“I thought they played awesome,” North Tahoe coach Kristin Carlson said of her players. “They played really hard throughout the entire game, and everybody played their best. Our skills all came together. It was a lot of fun.”
BOYS CONSOLATION FINAL
The Whittell boys took out their heartbreak from the previous night on White Pine.
After a sluggish start, the Warriors caught fire in the 20th minute and never cooled off.
Bryce Bronken initiated the onslaught when he buried a low corner kick by Palmer Chaplin into the goal from about 12 yards out. Five minutes later, Charles Jurzenski lofted a ball toward the goal from 30 yards away that snuck into the upper corner, shocking Jurzenski as much as White Pine goalie Jesse Petersen.
Chris Evans extended the lead to 3-0 in the 32nd minute, as he found himself wide open in the box after Petersen allowed a ball to get through him. Mark Waite got in on the scoring two minutes later after receiving a through-ball from Bronken.
Bronken then pushed the lead to 5-0 in the final minute of the half when he worked into a pocket of open space and blasted a shot into the back of the net.
“We started off slow and then started to put things together,” said Whittell coach Timothy Plummer. “When we do that, I feel like no one can beat us.”
The Bobcats got on the board in the second half. But there was no catching the Warriors. Bronken and Waite scored their second goals of the contest, while Spenser Buchholz scored one to seal the lopsided win.
“I thought all my guys played hard,” Plummer said. “We don’t have a lot of subs, so the guys really stepped up for each other.”
The Warriors made due without one of their top players, J.J. Rupp, who received a red card against North Tahoe on Friday and had to sit out the next game.
GIRLS REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
The last time the Incline and Whittell girls met – Oct. 23 – the visiting Warriors shocked the Highlanders with two goals in the opening 10 minutes and three unanswered goals in the first half en route to a 4-1 win.
“The last game when they took it to us right off the bat, I take the blame for that,” Incline coach Tom Canino said. “I didn’t have my team prepared to play.”
On Saturday it was the Highlanders who struck first – and early.
Less than a half-minute into the contest, Caitlin May delivered a perfectly placed cross from the wing directly in front of the goal, where sophomore league MVP Vanessa Andrade hit it out of the air and into the net.
Incline focused much effort on keeping Whittell’s main scoring threats, Kenya Maltase and Jenny Shepack, off the scoreboard after the pair combined for three goals the last time they played.
“That was part of our plan, to not let them beat us like they did last time,” Canino said.
The rest of the half remained tightly contested, and Incline entered the break with a 1-0 advantage.
The Highlanders received some insurance 12 minutes into the second half. Whittell goalie Brittany Boulet charged after a ball, but May got her foot on it first before kicking it into the vacated goal. Elise Nelson was credited with the assist.
“We were just flat the whole game,” Whittell coach Pat Kelly said. “We really didn’t have any sense of urgency. Their early goal had a negative impact on us.”
The Warriors cut the lead in half in the final minutes of the game, as Maltase sliced a free kick over the head of Incline goalie Sarah Wright from 35 yards away. But their late comeback hopes faded shortly after with the sound of the final whistle.
“Overall it just wasn’t our day today,” Kelly said.
Canino, who called the regular-season loss to Whittell a wakeup call – “It was actually to our advantage to lose that game when we did,” he said – anticipates another close battle if Incline and Whittell clash again for the state championship.
“I can’t imagine anything but a great game next time we play,” he said.
BOYS REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Incline and North Tahoe boys tied both of their regular-season showdowns, 2-2 and 3-3, and Saturday’s regional championship was no different through 80 minutes of play.
The Highlanders, who cruised to a 3-0 win over White Pine in their semifinal Friday night, finally put an end to the drama when Rey Estrada broke through the North Tahoe defense and scored in the fourth minute of the 15-minute, sudden-death overtime period.
Upon scoring the winning goal, Estrada ripped off his shirt – on a night when most were bundled in a jacket or blanket – and sprinted to the home sideline before he was caught by a mob of teammates and fans.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Incline coach Ian Hauck as his Highlanders celebrated behind him.
The Lakers, exhausted and battered after two nights of physical, hard-fought soccer – they needed a second overtime period to get past Whittell on Friday – were far from ecstatic as they gathered up their gear.
“It was a very good, intense game,” said North Tahoe coach Beto Alcaraz, before attending to a bloody-lipped player holding an ice pack, Jesus Ortega. “I’m very proud of these guys. They played a great game again. They played their hearts out both nights. They all stepped it up.”
North Tahoe took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute on an Incline own-goal. North Tahoe senior forward Wildon DesLauriers tried to send a through ball up to Adrian Ortega. Incline’s Oscar Gudino got his head on it, but the ball bounced backward and into the goal.
After several near-misses by the Lakers, Incline freshman Victor Hererra evened the score off a long through-ball sent up by Salvador Vargas.
The Lakers snapped the tie four minutes later, as Chase Whitney scored and celebrated with a nonchalant, twisting flip that he stuck to his feet. North Tahoe carried the 2-1 lead into the half.
The lead remained through much of the second half. But it was hardly safe against a potent Incline offense that was gaining steam as the game wore on.
Estrada proved as much late in regulation. The big, skilled sophomore bulged the back of the net with a rocket shot that knotted the score at 2, prompting Vargas to goad the large crowd of North Tahoe supporters as he and his Incline teammates exulted.
“We started off slow in the first half. The second half we really picked it up,” Hauck said. “I thought we were a lot more composed. The first half we gave the ball up a lot. But we tightened up in the back, and that led to some good runs.”
North Tahoe, which played without senior first-team All-Leaguer Lucas Earley, who was sick, also lost junior defender Angel Guerrero in the first half after he was cleated in the lower leg. To make up for the loss, Alcaraz moved Adrian Ortega, a forward who scored the winning goal against Whittell, back on defense.