Coyote men peaking at right time, excited for rematch with Folsom Lake in playoffs | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Coyote men peaking at right time, excited for rematch with Folsom Lake in playoffs

Lake Tahoe's Lex Merrifield, of South Lake Tahoe, starts the Coyotes attack earlier this season.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Northern region bracket

Saturday’s games: No. 1 Fresno City (13-1-7) vs. No. 16 Las Positas (10-7-3), No. 8 De Anza (14-5-1) vs. No. 9 Hartnell (12-3-3); No. 5 Delta (14-2-4) vs. No. 12 Skyline (11-5-2), No. 4 Folsom Lake (16-2-3) vs. No. 13 Lake Tahoe (12-7-2); No. 3 Taft (16-3-2) vs. No. 14 Santa Rosa (10-7-1), No. 6 Butte (18-1-1) vs. No. 11 Cosumnes River (9-7-5); No. 7 Cañada (11-4-3) vs. No. 10 City of San Francisco (12-4-3), No. 2 West Valley (15-2-2) vs. No. 15 Napa (7-8-3).

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Community College was left out of the soccer playoffs last year for the first time in four years.

The Coyotes thought they had done enough to qualify but missed postseason for the first time in the program’s young history.

“I was there last year and it was a tough way to find out especially on the last day thinking we were in,” said Coyotes sophomore Josh Corlett, of England.

But this year the Coyotes are in the 16-team bracket of the California Community College Athletic Association Men’s Soccer Regional Championships.

The Coyotes (12-7-2) finished second in the Golden Valley Conference (7-2) and received the No. 13 seed. They will face No. 4 Folsom Lake Monday at Folsom. The match was originally scheduled for Saturday in Folsom, then it was changed to Sunday in Tahoe due to smoke, and ultimately it was changed to Monday in Folsom.

“I’m excited for the sophomores, the same guys I had to tell in the locker room last year that we were on the outside looking in,” said Coyotes head coach Nicholas Arbelaez. “Last night when I told them, it was a different feeling and it was cool to see.”

The Lake Tahoe men are peaking at the right time and savoring every second of practicing beyond the regular season.

“It’s nice to be practicing after the regular season, it’s something I haven’t done before,” Corlett said. “The way we’ve prepared, the training and intensity has picked up. The playoffs are a big thing. It’s exciting. We had a good session today and I’m sure we’ll have one tomorrow.”

The Coyotes won five in a row and eight of their last 10 to end the regular season. They even made a trip to the north coast late in the year to play Mendocino to earn points and have bulldozed their way into postseason with three straight must-wins to end the season.

“We’re on a hot streak,” said Coyotes leading scorer Jose Lopez, from Las Vegas. “We haven’t gotten scored on in five games. We’ve been putting the games away pretty comfortably. Hopefully we can go into playoffs with that same mentality, staying hungry, focused, wanting to win, first to the ball, all of that.”

The sophomore led Tahoe is scoring this season with 13 goals and 38 overall points, the second most in the GVC.

Coyotes captain Jorge Medina led the state in assists (22), scored five goals and was fifth in the conference in points (32).

Corlett was right behind Medina with eight goals and 15 assists for 31 points.

Tahoe faced Folsom early in the season and suffered a 2-0 defeat on its home turf. But the loss came during a four game skid where the Coyotes were adjusting to a handful of sophomores being ruled ineligible to play.

“We got a completely different lineup,” said Coyotes head coach Nicholas Arbelaez. “I felt like we were in a shell defending trying to get results rather than trying to produce results. The guys are in a better place mentally.”

“We feel confident,” said Coyotes sophomore Jose Estrada, of Reno. “Our last couple of games we’ve played well and that has given us a lot of confidence heading into postseason. As of right now, we’re playing the best soccer of the year and it’s the best time to pick it up. We have the chemistry and that’s what has helped us grow throughout the season.”

Tahoe started the season 1-4 and went 11-3-2 the rest of the way.

The Coyotes are excited for a rematch with their current form on the pitch.

Arbelaez told his team that seeds are just a number.

“A lot of people look at the seeding and think since we’re a lower seed we don’t have a chance,” Arbelaez said. “It’s just a number. I think No. 1 can be knocked off by No. 16.”

“(We’ve had) massive improvement from where we started the season,” Corlett said. “The coaches have helped us out with our performances and we had a tough schedule to start. We’ve adapted to a style of play that seems to be working for us.”

Should the Coyotes upset the Falcons, they would play at the winner between No. 5 Delta and No. 12 Skyline on Tuesday or Wednesday, Nov. 20-21, at a time to be determined.

The two teams that reach the NorCal final qualify for the state tournament.

“I feel like we found our chemistry and that plays a big part of what we can do this coming game,” Lopez said. “Hopefully we show up and put up a good performance.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect a revised date and location for the playoff match.