Baker’s dozen of seniors leads Vikings
The 1998 soccer season ended nine months ago, but it’s still fresh in the memory of South Tahoe High’s boys.
Even with 13 seniors returning from last year’s squad, it would be wrong to say the sole motivation for the Vikings is to avenge a loss to Carson in the zone semifinals. It would be equally wrong to say the team has forgotten about losing 1-0 in triple overtime to a team it had beaten twice during the season.
“I think our goal is definitely state this year,” said South Tahoe co-captain Evan Baker, who is entering his fourth year on the Viking varsity. “I’m pretty sure we can do it. We can’t let any flukes happen again.”
Carson’s only win over the Vikings last season came at a perfect time for the Senators. They advanced to the state tournament, which they eventually won, while South Tahoe finished one game short of state. Baker and the baker’s dozen of senior Vikings don’t want that to happen again.
“I think it’s our year,” he said.
South Tahoe carries 24 players on its varsity squad, indicating it has the depth to keep going far into the postseason this year. But head coach Joe Winters faces the offsetting tasks of finding minutes for all the contributors while keeping the team hungry.
The large squad could complement South Tahoe’s game plan, which builds offense out of the back to the team’s two forwards. The Vikings play three defenders and a sweeper back, along with four midfielders and two strikers, and typically send the outside backs and outside midfielders flying down the wings.
With goalie Peter Chirapotti, a sophomore keeper who started half the team’s games as a freshman and continues to push for time on the field, South Tahoe has the luxury of pinching its defenders upfield. Senior Pat Reardon will play keeper when Chirapotti starts in the field.
“We always believe that if we’re strong in the back, we can stay in games,” Winters said.
Co-captain Paul Wilson, one of the team’s more vocal leaders, also leads by example from his defender’s position. He joins Steve Fruitman and Kerim Posadas one the back line, while William Aguilar anchors the defense at sweeper.
“Paul is just an excellent leader,” Winters said. “He’s a hustler. He’s just one of those guys who never says die.”
The defense feeds Dave Brown, John McKean and Baker, who have been playing together for a long time, and lead a veteran midfield unit. With only two forwards, the team needs both front-liners to be legitimate scoring threats, and both are. Andy Butcher is a big target on the front line, and tied for the team lead last season with 13 goals. Carlos Davila complements Butcher with speed and creativity.
As in other sports, the beginning of the season usually marks a time when soccer offenses aren’t very precise. The Vikings struggled to a 1-4 start last year before posting seven straight wins. Winters wants to avoid starting this season in a similar manner, and he’s counting on the conditioning of his troops to pull them through. While Winters was disappointed with the condition of some of his returning players, Wilson feels the team will be able to catch up.
“We’re going to be in good condition, I know that,” Wilson said. “We have a really good team this year, and we’ve got a really good chance at making state.
“This is the most competitive team I’ve been on so far.”
The coaches will have a chance to experiment with the lineup this weekend, when the Vikings start their season with a trip to Vacaville, Calif. Competing against teams from northern California will give the Vikings a rude awakening before they move on to open their schedule at Elko on Tuesday. After that, the team has two home games: against Reed Tuesday, and against Lowry Sept. 3.
The two big dates that stand out on the calendar are Sept. 22 and Oct. 15 – the home game and road trip to Carson, respectively. The Vikings also are looking out for the Sept. 8 trip to McQueen, as well as rival Douglas (at South Tahoe on Sept. 11 and at Douglas on Oct. 13) and Reno (at Reno on Oct. 1 and at South Tahoe on Oct. 20). But South Tahoe has unfinished business, and isn’t taking anyone lightly this year.
“We’re going to be looking out for everyone,” Wilson said. “We’re not going to be going against anyone easy.”
The road back to zone begins at 11 a.m. Saturday in Elko.
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