Vikings advance to regional semifinals
November 1, 2009
RENO – Penalty kicks and Reed High School haven’t been a good mix for the South Tahoe High girls’ soccer team in the postseason.
In 2006, Reed eliminated South Tahoe from the playoffs with a 5-1 victory, and in 2007 the Raiders handed South Tahoe its only Northern Nevada defeat in a penalty kick shootout for the regional championship.
Even last year, when the Vikings avoided Reed in the postseason, Elko ousted South Tahoe in the quarterfiinals on penalty kicks.
On Saturday, South Tahoe obscured some of those unpleasant memories with a 1-0 penalty kick victory over three-time Northern Nevada regional champion Reed in a quarterfinal match.
The teams went scoreless through 110 minutes of action, bringing into play the penalty kick shootout. Even the five-round shootout wasn’t enough to decide the hard-fought quarterfinal match as the Vikings finally put away the Raiders in the seventh round when Natalie Flynn buried her shot in the lower right-hand corner of the goal, and then Reed misfired on its chance to further extend the match.
“I don’t mind playing a lot of soccer, but I wish we would have played until someone had scored,” said STHS coach Clint Lockhart. “I hate finishing on PKs, whether we are the winner or the loser of it. It comes down to individual talent instead of team talent, and soccer is a team game.”
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The victory guarantees South Tahoe at least two more postseaon matches. The Vikings (17-4-2), who have an eight-game unbeaten streak, will play Sierra champ Carson in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Damonte Ranch, with the winner cinching a spot in next week’s state tournament. The loser can still advance to state by winning a third-place match on Saturday.
Lockhart had no preconceived plan for the penalty kick round, even though it has become a traditional part of South Tahoe’s postseason.
“A lot of coaches like to have their shooters predetermined. I never do that,” Lockhart said. “I turn and say, ‘Who are my five?’ I have five people who always volunteer. I figure if they’re volunteering for it and they want it, that’s the person I want shooting for me.”
Lockhart prefers that his shooters go first, and he didn’t turn down that opportunity Saturday. Both teams sent out their top scorer in the first round, and the Vikings’ Shelbi Spicer and the Raiders’ Kelsey Gomer beat the keepers by pinpointing shots to the lower-left side of the goal. South Tahoe’s Gaby Yanez converted in the second round, as did Reed’s shooter. Defender Erika Cook found the net on the right side for the Vikings in the third round, and South Tahoe senior keeper Alexis Nunes-Fenley stopped Alissa Parada’s shot – Reed’s third straight attempt to the left side.
But Reed pulled even in the fourth round when Ashley Killeen’s try was stopped, and Reed’s Jordan Sambrano found success in the upper right-hand compartment. In the fifth round, South Tahoe sent out a surprising shooter in Nunes-Fenley. The goalie showed she was worthy by burying her attempt.
“I play goalie, so I know little tricks. I feel really comfortable when I do those,” she said.
Reed stayed alive as Alissa Marshall cashed in her attempt.
With the score tied 4-4 after five rounds, the penalty kicks became sudden-death. Vikings’ senior Cassandra Diaz took the pressure of her goalkeeper by finding the net on the lower-right side.
“I always pick a spot and look to the opposite,” Diaz said. “Once you pick a spot, you have to kick it there. If you switch up, you are going to be messed up for the PK.”
Savannah Cobelman of the Raiders prolonged the match by beating Nunes-Fenley to her left, but the end was near. Flynn stretched the net with a well-placed shot to her right, then Lora Wagener’s attempt sailed over the goal, sending the Vikings’ sideline streaming toward Nunes-Fenley for a postgame celebration.
“It feels good to finally win one in PKs,” Diaz said. “It’s really frustrating sometimes to let it go all the way down to PKs, but a win is a win, and it always feels good.”
In regulation play, Reed outshot South Tahoe 20-19, and out of those attempts, the Raiders’ Taylor Ryckebosch probably had the best opportunity to deliver a goal. At the 51-minute mark, Ryckebosch got behind the South Tahoe defense on the right side and blasted a shot from 20 yards out that Nunes-Fenley denied going inside the far post with her right hand. South Tahoe defender Killeen then booted the ball out of play to prevent a follow-up shot.
Ali Palacios provided two excellent South Tahoe scoring chances in the second half, but both of her shots went wide of the mark.
In the first half, Becky Bruce gave South Tahoe a clear shot at the goal, but her attempt sailed over the mark. In each half, Nunes-Fenley aggressively came out of the box to meet an attacking Kelsey Gomer to cut off the high-scoring Raiders’ scoring chance. On the first stop, Reed was awarded a free kick, which ended in a Vikings’ defender booting the ball out of harm’s way.
“It was scary,” said Lockhart of the collisions encountered by Nunes-Fenley, who has played only three matches since recovering from an ACL injury. “After the first one, I did have hesitations of even leaving her in. Someone coming off an injury, there’s bigger things in life than soccer, and I wanted to make sure she wasn’t hurt. Every time she shook me off and said she was fine. It’s something she needed to get used to, and I guess we’ll welcome her back in a harder way than normal.”
The Vikings’ best chance to end the game in overtime came when Bruce’ attempt was tipped over the crossbar.
Carson holds a 1-0-1 edge in its season series with South Tahoe. The schools played to a 1-1 tie on Oct. 26. The Vikings are trying to win their first regional championship since 1996.
“We all want it, that’s for sure,” Nunes-Fenley said. “We finally realized what we want, and now we all know how we’re going to get there.
“We’re playing as a team. We’re fighting through together, not individually, and we’re pulling it.”
All four Sierra Division teams won their playoff matches on Saturday. Carson edged Reno 1-0, Galena beat Elko 2-0 and Douglas stopped Spanish Springs 1-0.