Butcher, Baker (but no candlestick maker) spark Vikings
Sparks High brought its Railroaders to South Tahoe on Wednesday, but the hometown Vikings are on the fast train to the zone soccer semifinals with a 3-1 win.
Ian Baker and Andy Butcher each scored a second-half goal as South Tahoe pulled out of a 1-1 halftime tie for a win in the first round of the Northern Nevada 4A boys zone tournament at South Tahoe Middle School. While Sparks kept the game close, South Tahoe provided most of the fireworks.
“After they tied it up, we knew we had to step it up and we did,” said Baker, a senior forward, who finished with two goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score in the second half.
Baker provided the first score in the game’s 21st minute, but Sparks rallied to tie the score in the 38th minute, when Vince Wolfe came out of a scramble in front of the goal with the ball. Then, Butcher, Baker and the South Tahoe offense took over.
“It was a good win for us because we knew they were going to play us tough,” said South Tahoe head coach Joe Winters.
“I felt, as the game went on, I was worried about whether we could stay composed,” Winters said. “We dominated most of the play. We just couldn’t quite put it in the net.”
In the game’s 59th minute, Baker forced a turnover just outside the Sparks 18, dribbled in, and placed a cross right in front of Butcher, who hammered the ball into the empty net.
“Once Evan has the ball, you’ve got to go and get into the space,” Butcher said. “That’s how I get my goals. I do the dirty work.”
With the score 2-1, William Aguilar, Ryan Daugherty, Paul Wilson and the South Tahoe defense kept Sparks at bay. The Railroaders nearly evened the score again in the game’s 66th minute on a free kick from just inside the 18, but South Tahoe keeper Peter Chiarpotti plucked the shot out of the air, just under the crossbar.
Baker provided the final margin a few minutes later. With the goalie out, Baker took the ball at the left side of the goal area, then slid a shot into the bottom right corner. Sparks managed to keep the score closer than a 5-1 loss in the regular season, but Division II’s fourth seed couldn’t pull the upset. Railroaders head coach Joe Gabica attributed the win to South Tahoe’s depth.
“We did pretty well until we couldn’t got tired,” he said. “Conditioning ultimately will wear you down.”
South Tahoe improved to 20-0-4 overall with the win, and fought of the nerves that come from being the regular-season champion.
“Personally, I was nervous two days ago, but a couple of guys today said it’s like any other game, and you’ve got to take it like any other game,” Butcher said.
With the win, South Tahoe advanced to a 2 p.m. Friday match against Reed, the second seed from Division I. Reed advanced on Wednesday with a 6-1 rout of Carson, the third seed out of Division II.
South Tahoe played Reed once this season, beating the Raiders 3-1 on Sept. 2 at South Tahoe Middle School. Reed led 1-0 before Kerim Posada scored two goals, and Baker put the finishing touches on the match. Most important, though, Carson City becomes, once again, a neutral site for the semifinals.
“I don’t know if that’s an indication of how good Reed is or how unprepared Carson was,” Winters said. “I appreciate the fact I get to play Reed at Carson as opposed to Carson at Carson when I’m the No. 1 seed and Carson is the No. 3 seed.”
His players sounded ready for either challenge, especially a rematch with the Raiders. Both Baker and Butcher sounded as though they would prefer a match against Reed.
The Vikings entered the zone tournament as the top seed, and kept their unbeaten season intact on Wednesday. The Vikings can advance to the state tournament with a win on Friday. Both finalists qualify for state. In the other half of the draw, Douglas and McQueen face off at 2 p.m. Friday in a semifinal game.
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