FERNLEY — The Highlanders did not want to test their fate again in a sudden-death overtime period — particularly against the rival Lakers in the final game of the year.
They made sure to take care of business in regulation of Saturday’s Division III state championship.
After the North Shore foes played to a pair of spirited ties during the regular season — while the Highlanders edged the Lakers in overtime of the regional championship last week — Incline stormed back from an early hole to cement a 3-1 state championship victory in Fernley.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” said first-year Incline head coach Ian Hauck. “I’m just really excited to see them succeed. For a team to come back from a deficit in the state championship shows a lot of character.”
The state title was the second straight for the Highlanders, who also needed an overtime period to get past Whittell, 3-2, in Friday’s semifinal round. The Lakers, meanwhile, defeated The Meadows 3-0 in their semifinal game.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is,” North Tahoe coach Beto Alcaraz said of the championship loss. “We gave it all we had. The boys played excellent. I’m very proud of them. They had a great season.”
North Tahoe drew first blood just four minutes into the contest, as freshman Jesus Ortega found himself open in front of the goal for an easy score.
The slim lead remained through 32 minutes of physical, back-and-forth soccer.
Eight minutes before the half, however, Incline sophomore Rey Estrada put an end to the Highlanders’ scoring drought when he got past a defender and blasted a rocket shot into the back of the net.
“We were not winning 50-50 balls early on, and the boys didn’t seem like they wanted it as bad. North Tahoe seemed to want it more in the first 15 minutes or so,” Hauck said. “But once Rey scored the first goal, I think that lit a fire for the guys and got them motivated.”
Incline never relinquished its momentum after the half.
Seven minutes after the break, Alejandro Alcantara crossed a ball into an open Danny Guerrero, who quickly settled it and kicked it past the diving reach of North Tahoe goalie Omar Vargas.
The real dagger came in the 69th minute.
Guerrero delivered a cross directly in front of the goal, and Marlon Correa buried it to give his team a 3-1 lead.
“We started out pretty well,” Alcaraz said, “and then all of the sudden it fell apart. We did great this season though. I’m really proud of the boys, and they should be proud of themselves too.”
The Lakers, who lose six seniors from this year’s team — Vargas, Wildon DesLauriers, Alex Tyler, Jose Chavez, Garret Driller and Adrian Ortega — finished the season 9-4-3 against the Division III.
Incline, which finished 13-0-3 against the DIII, should be tough to contend with next year, as they lose only Victor Martinez and Oscar Duran to graduation.