Vikings hope third time is charm against Carson |

Vikings hope third time is charm against Carson

South Tahoe’s girls, fresh off upsetting top-seeded Reed to open zone, are gunning for a second straight upset of a team the Vikings have seen before.

And gunning might be just the right word. On Tuesday, South Tahoe, the fourth seed from Northern Nevada 4A Division II, felt no pressure, played a wide-open game and came away with a 1-0 upset of the previously once-beaten Raiders. Today, the Vikings invade Carson (14-3-2) on the Senators’ home field with an eye on advancing to Saturday’s zone finals in Carson City.

“Each game is different, so you can’t go in there too easy, (but), we can’t go in there like we’re going to lose,” said South Tahoe goalie Sarah Junge, who made 20 stops in the first-round win.

Carson, the second seed from Division II, stands in the way. It’s a quorum of Senators who South Tahoe tied once and lost to once this season, but who respect their semifinal opponents.

“I like South Tahoe,” said Carson head coach Mike Popp. “I like their coaching staff, and they’re a great bunch of girls.”

South Tahoe tied Carson on Sept. 21 in South Lake Tahoe, but the Senators won the Oct. 16 rematch convincingly, 4-1, in Carson City. Unlike the second game between South Tahoe and Carson, when the Vikings were trying to improve their league standing in the middle of a brutal midseason schedule, the Vikings feel no pressure.

“The funny thing about zone is all bets are off,” said South Tahoe head coach Julia Peyser. “It’s just a soccer game now.”

The games offered a stark contrast: The first was a goalie duel, where both teams fired away, but neither could convert. The keepers were especially important, as Junge stopped 19 shots, while her counterpart, Pam Williams, finished with 18 saves. South Tahoe also controlled the 50-50 balls.

“I think that’s what makes South Tahoe so strong,” Popp said. “They never give up.”

But Carson rolled over South Tahoe on the Senators’ home field on Oct. 16 after taking a 2-0 lead early. South Tahoe cut the lead to 2-1 on a score from forward Diana Higman, but Carson put the game away in the second half with two unanswered goals. But South Tahoe already has exorcised its memories of the Oct. 16 loss.

“We know if we play the game we can play, we can beat them,” Peyser said.

Against Reed in the first round, Junge and her defense set the tone early. The keeper’s timing was perfect as she held the Raiders scoreless on several good opportunities, giving her confidence.

“I just figured the rest of the game was going to be pretty easy,” Junge said. “It wasn’t going to be too easy – we weren’t going to let down.”

Tuesday’s game wasn’t easy for South Tahoe, but the Vikings did seem to find an extra lift after Jen Galea’s second-half goal. The defense was magnificent against a dangerous Raiders front line, and marking back Tirah Samura held Reed’s best player, Sherika Evans, in check.

Galea, who spent several minutes on the bench after a hard kick to the ankle, Melissa Stetson and Jen Hamm kept the pressure on Reed on Tuesday. The persistence paid off when the ball popped loose, Galea picked it up and scored into an empty net. It’s a scenario that has become familiar to Popp, and probably every other coach in the zone tournament.

“When it comes down to the playoffs, it’s a whole new ball game,” Popp said. “The coaches can only do so much. It comes down to the girls.”

Popp’s Senators, by contrast, cruised over a physical Elko club with a 4-0 win.

“We know we’re going to have tough competition on Thursday, and we’re going to have to adjust to that,” Popp said.

One reason South Tahoe seems to be playing better is the Vikings, finally, are healthy, which opens up their freewheeling transition game. Galea appeared to be the only injured Viking in Tuesday’s game, but contributed quality minutes on the front line.

Carson, though, enters the game with three starters slightly injured – a scenario similar to the first match with the Vikings. Popp listed two of his fullbacks and one of his forwards as day-to-day.

“The defense is going to be slightly at a disadvantage,” Popp said.

South Tahoe and Carson kick off their zone semifinal game at 2 p.m. in Carson City. The winner of today’s game meets either Douglas (16-1-1 overall) or Galena (11-4-2), who face off in the other semifinal at 2 p.m. at Douglas. Because girls in southern Nevada play soccer in the spring, no state playoff berth is on the line.

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