A match that everyone saw coming
For the second straight year, STHS, Carson play for a state soccer berth
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
There was little doubt when the Nevada 4A boys’ soccer season started in August that South Tahoe and Carson would meet in the postseason.
Few, however, could have predicted that the schools would meet in the regional semifinals instead of the finals. Defending regional champion STHS slid to an unexpected third place in the Sierra Division and the Senators won the division for the second straight season, necessitating the schools play prior to the championship round.
Last year’s regional finalists square off tonight at 6 at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno with the stakes just as big as last year’s finals – a state berth is on the line and the loser will go home and think about next season.
“You have everything to lose, and we can’t leave the field feeling sorry and can’t leave any kind of energy on the field,” said STHS coach Chris DeLeon. “Being that we’re playing Carson makes it even a better match.”
South Tahoe (15-4-4) is shooting for its fifth regional championship in six years. Since winning a state title in 1998, the Senators have been lost in the huge shadow cost by the Viking program.
“They’re a good team – you always look forward to playing them,” said Carson coach Jason Koop. “It makes it more interesting. They’re pretty disciplined. Their coach, Chris DeLeon, does a great job of organizing the team. They move as a group on the attack and defensively.”
One goal could do the trick.
As the burgeoning South Tahoe-Carson boys’ soccer rivalry has evolved in the past year, their has been little scoring. The teams played to a 1-1 tie in Carson (20-2-4) early in the season and then the Senators made a goal stand up in winning in South Lake Tahoe.
“We got our faces slapped; it was a good wake-up call,” DeLeon said. “I think the difference in those games was mostly the energy and some mental mistakes by our entire team defense.”
DeLeon hasn’t forgotten the penalty kick that the Senators scored in the 2004 regional semifinals that abruptly ended the defending state champions’ season.
Certainly Carson hasn’t forgotten the 3-0 smackdown the Vikings delivered last year in the regional finals after the Senators had claimed the Sierra Division title.
“Our record of going to state speaks for itself,” DeLeon said. “This is where we had done well against Carson. If anyone has a chip on their shoulder, it would be them since we’ve knocked them out the last couple years.”
Both programs have flourished with their defensive play this year, and neither team demonstrated a potent scoring attack in their regional quarterfinal. Carson used a first-half goal by Brady Roser to hold off pesky Spanish Springs squad, while the Vikings again received a lift from freshman phenom Kory DiGrande as he scored once in each half of a 2-0 win over a higher-seeded McQueen team.
DiGrande was playing for the Vikings’ junior varsity when the teams met during the regular season. In addition to DiGrande, DeLeon has been impressed by the play of Chase Grant and Mike Caro when they have been pressed into duty. Grant, a senior, delivered an aggressive performance for the Vikings during the second half against the Lancers last Saturday.
Injuries have hindered the Vikings’ offense late in the season as Gavin Chandler, Anthony DeMarta, Andres Munoz and Omar Navarro have each spent time on the sidelines due to injuries. DeLeon expects all but Chandler to see the field at some point tonight.
Carson’s top two scorers have been junior Adam Updegrove (13 goals, seven assists) and senior Drew Good (nine goals, seven assists).
“It’s been an entire team effort,” Koop said. “We have 20 players on the roster and everybody with the exception of two players has contributed goals or assists. We don’t have a bunch of high-flyers on our team. They’re a bunch of guys that work hard and work together.”
Tonight’s winner will advance to the regional finals against either Reed or Douglas on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Damonte Ranch High.
– The Nevada Appeal contributed to this story.