Counting on continuity: Salmon takes over South Tahoe girls soccer program
South Tahoe’s most successful sports program over the past half-decade has new leadership at the top — and the Vikings are counting on continuity to deliver continued success. Mark Salmon was named head coach of the program last month, and the former JV coach takes over a team aiming for a third straight state championship.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, and to me it’s truly a privilege,” Salmon said. “I’ve been watching the high school program for so many years — it means something special to be a part of it, because you see how important it is to the girls and how recognized it is at the school.”
Salmon replaces Jeremy Evans, who left to become head coach of the women’s program at Lake Tahoe Community College after a successful five-year stretch at STHS. During Evans’ two seasons as head coach, the Vikings went 39-7-4 and won back-to-back NIAA Div. I-A state titles.
“Jeremy knew that some of the girls doubted whether he was Chris DeLeon and could fill those shoes,” Salmon said. “He wanted to one-up that — he wanted to beat the teams that weren’t beaten before to make that state championship a little more special. Now I have to one-up Jeremy, which is not going to be easy.”
Familiarity with local soccer culture in South Lake Tahoe played a big role in Salmon’s hiring as head coach. In addition to coaching South Tahoe’s JV team for the past two seasons — including a 15-3 mark and league title in 2014 — he has coached club soccer for seven years with South Tahoe Futbol Club.
“It’s the complete package for him to come up from the JV and be the varsity head coach because he steps right in and we don’t skip a beat,” South Tahoe athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “He knows the personnel and the athletes that are coming up, and is involved in the system as well as anybody.”
During Salmon’s time as JV coach, he learned the ins and outs of the Vikings’ program while working closely with Evans. His biggest takeaways from working alongside the Coyotes’ current coach were scouting and preparation, player development and handling the administrative side involved with the job.
“There’s no way I would have been able to walk in to South Tahoe and just take over the varsity program,” Salmon said. “It was important to be mentored by Jeremy, and see how the program functions — there’s more aspects to it than just soccer that make the program run.”
South Tahoe’s consecutive state championships are part of a string of four titles in five seasons. While this brings an amount of pressure, Salmon said he believes that has been crucial to the Vikings’ continued success.
“The pressure is the key piece,” Salmon said. “The girls recognize — and so do I — that we are expected to win.”
Salmon won’t be South Tahoe’s only new face when they take the field next fall, after 11 seniors graduated from the Vikings’ 2014 state championship team. The number and quality of players leaving the program raises questions about STHS’ future success, and the team’s new head coach doesn’t mind that.
“That’s just what we need — people to doubt us that little bit,” Salmon said. “You’re losing some star players, but what you have with this group is true cohesion because they’ve played together since they were little kids — they’ve been playing competitive soccer since they were nine years old and they know each other.”
In addition to players already in the program, Salmon said South Tahoe will be boosted by a talented incoming freshman class. As a result of this influx, he feels next year’s JV team will be one of the strongest in program history.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of talent coming up and it’s good to put that kind of pressure on the varsity players — they’re going to see it and feel it during tryouts, and hopefully they’re all prepared and will train hard this summer,” Salmon said.
South Tahoe will enter the 2015 season as favorites to win a third straight league title and contenders to bring home a third consecutive state championship. Even under new leadership, expectations haven’t changed.
“We want to prove it even more that we were the ones putting that pressure on,” Salmon said.
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