Freshman triggers Vikings’ playoff win
RENO – Add a composed and lethal freshman to South Tahoe High boys’ soccer team’s postseason mystique.
Kory DiGrande, playing in only his fifth varsity game, scored both of the Vikings’ goals in a 2-0 victory over McQueen in Northern 4A quarterfinals on Saturday at Damonte Ranch High School. The victory over the higher-seeded Lancers sends the Vikings into Thursday night’s semifinals against Carson, a 1-0 victor over Spanish Springs.
“It’s doing my part on the team; it’s been a blast,” DiGrande said. “Ever since I got pulled up, I’ve been trying my hardest in practices and games.”
In the 24th minute, DiGrande got behind the McQueen defense and Omar Reyes found him, enabling DiGrande to easily direct the ball into the center of the net. The score stayed 1-0 until the 75th minute when DiGrande capitalized on a feed from Anthony DeMarta by faking outside and turning in to beat the keeper with a 20-yard shot inside the far post.
In his five varsity games DiGrande has scored four goals, making STHS’s coaching staff look brilliant for adjusting their lineup before the postseason.
“He has nothing to lose; he has three more years,” said STHS coach Chris DeLeon.
For the most part, McQueen disrupted the Vikings’ ball control offense with a boom ball approach and by letting speedy left-footed striker Devon Mix attack on the left side.
“We tried to control the pace of the game, but I think they controlled it a little bit more than we did,” DeLeon said. “We settled down in the second half and a got a few more opportunities.”
The long-ball style of play resulted in several good chances for the Lancers, but STHS senior keeper Josh Doherty was up to the challenge, turning away 12 shots and remaining composed despite several rough tactics by McQueen.
In fact, Doherty nearly left the game in the 53rd minute after being kicked below the belt after stopping a direct kick by Mix.
“I had to walk it off,” Doherty said. “I asked for a sub, but they’re like, ‘No, you have to get up and walk it off.’ “
The Lancers wound up being sorry that Doherty could finish.
McQueen tried twice more to break Doherty’s focus, but a couple loose elbows did nothing to take the senior keeper out of his game.
“It made me want to say something, but keeping your composure, that’s what you have to do,” Doherty said.
With McQueen being held unaccountable for repeatedly bumping into Doherty, DeLeon became upset.
“That probably made me mad more than anything else,” DeLeon said. “Just like in baseball or whatever, you protect the goalie. Then our team started doing it, so I had to talk to them and settle them down.”
While Doherty escaped serious injury, DeLeon was concerned about the availability of Omar Navarro for the next match. Navarro rolled his ankle six minutes into the match and didn’t return.
South Tahoe outshot McQueen 24-16, but the Lancers had ample opportunities to score by virtue of an 8-4 edge on corner kicks.
Now, the Vikings have a new weapon as they shoot for their fifth regional title in six years. And to think, DiGrande is just becoming comfortable with the game at the varsity level.
“The pace of the game is a lot faster, so the first week I got tired out in practice, but now I have better endurance,” DiGrande said.