South Tahoe reloads for another shot at regional title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe reloads for another shot at regional title

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Provided to the TribuneShelbi Spicer of South Tahoe High is one of her team's top returning scorers.

Avoiding a penalty kick shootout in the playoffs should be one of the goals of the South Tahoe High girls’ soccer team.

The past two outstanding seasons by the Vikings have ended in bitter fashion – on penalty kicks. Last year, the Sierra League title contenders were edged by Elko the first round of the Northern 4A regional tournament.

“It was disappointing,” said STHS senior Shelbi Spicer. “I would love it if penalty kicks didn’t determine the winner because it doesn’t show who is the better team. I’d prefer we go until someone actually scores a goal.”

After becoming the first team to post an unbeaten record in Sierra League play behind an explosive offense in 2007, South Tahoe relied on defense to drop just one division game and compile a 15-3-4 overall record last year. South Tahoe recorded eight shutouts and allowed a league-best 12 goals.

Kelsi Buts, Northern 4A defensive player of the year, and first-team defender Brittany Barcellos have graduated. But the Vikings return one of the league’s top goalies in Alexis Nunes-Fenley. The all-league goalie, however, is recovering from knee surgery and won’t be available until later in the season.

“It’s not only a downer for us, but her personally,” South Tahoe coach Clint Lockhart said. “She’s made some huge strides since being in the program and really developed into a goalie.”

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As a result, the Viking may have to go back to outscoring opponents for success. Spicer and Cassandra Diaz are veteran players capable of filling the net.

“We’re counting on them to anchor the offense and get us some goals,” Lockhart said of his veteran forwards.

Spicer is confident that the younger players on the team will step up to the competition.

“I’m pretty sure this team will be able to get the job done. I feel this team might be better because we’ve played with each other for a while,” Spicer said. “I’m excited because the underclassmen are so strong. It will really help us this year and the years to come.”

Both players – along with Nunes-Fenley – challenged themselves to get better in the offseason. The Vikings’ three returning starters joined United Football Academy of Reno and participated in the USA Soccer’s National Cup tournaments in Modesto and Denver.

“I not only wanted the girls to get the experience and honor of playing at a high level, there were over 400 college coaches and scouts there,” said STHS assistant and JV coach Bill Spicer. “Girls from this area don’t often get seen by college coaches.”

Shelbi said the experience was eye-opening.

“It actually helped a lot because it opened our eyes of girls who really want it, and just the level of competition helped me pick up my game,” she said.

Lockhart believes that the Sierra Division won’t have a weak link in 2009 and should be as balanced as its ever been. Douglas is the defending division champ.

“It started at the end of last season. Every game is going to be a battle this year,” Lockhart said.

Other Vikings with varsity experience are Natalie Flynn, Ashley Killeen, Tori Lendstrom, Marisol Lizaola, Becky Bruce and Erika Cook. Even though Lockhart will have eight or nine new starters this year, he is excited about his team’s potential and qualities.

“It’s going to be a challenge, and we’re going to have to piece it together,” he said. “I believe this team has the attitude to do it, and they are willing to work. I definitely believe we can make a run to the playoffs.”

To check out the Vikings’ 2009 schedule, pick up the weekend edition of the Tribune or go to highschoolsports.net.