Home sweet home: South Tahoe girls soccer hosts Div. I-A state championships, aims for third straight title
Div. I-A Soccer State Championships
Friday-Saturday, Nov. 13-14
at South Tahoe High
Tickets: Adults $10, Students $5, 62 and older $3, 8 and younger free
Semifinals – Friday
(1S) Faith Lutheran vs. (2N) Truckee, noon
(1N) South Tahoe vs. (2S) Spring Valley, 4 p.m.
Championship – Saturday, 10 a.m.
Semifinals – Friday
(1S) Clark vs. (2N) Elko, 2 p.m.
(1N) Sparks vs. (2S) SECTA, 6 p.m.
Championship – Saturday, Noon
For the South Tahoe girls soccer team, the Div. I-A State championships present the opportunity of a lifetime. And the Vikings plan to rise to the occasion.
“We’re all super confident with one another,” Vikings senior Natalie Reber said. “We know that if we all dig deep enough, we can do it.”
South Tahoe is hosting the Div. I-A State tournament at Viking Stadium Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14. On their home field, the two-time defending state champions have the chance to deliver a third straight title and fifth in six seasons.
“It puts pressure on us, but we really want this — we really want state,” South Tahoe junior Jennifer Valdivia said. “There’s no way to describe it. We all want it so bad.”
North top seed South Tahoe (17-2-3) begins its state tournament run on Friday at 4 p.m. against South second seed Spring Valley (Las Vegas) (14-4-3) in the state semifinals. Vikings coach Mark Salmon chose the later time slot to allow STHS’ students to attend the match in an effort to create an electric atmosphere.
“It’s a memory that these girls will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives,” Salmon said. “It’s going to be a big match — win, lose or draw it will be an experience. I don’t think it will get to them nerves-wise. I think they’ll step up and play better.”
In the semifinals, South Tahoe faces a physical opponent that features a dynamic striker. Out of a 4-4-2 formation, the Grizzlies play through senior forward Samantha Meyers; the fast, physical striker has scored 27 goals for Spring Valley this season and is a threat to find the back of the net any time she has the ball.
The Vikings will mark Meyers with at least one defender for all of Friday’s match, and could crowd her with as many as four players. Reber anchors South Tahoe’s back line that overcame the losses of captains Zoe D’Angelo and Molly Jaggard en route to the regional title, and it features four players fast enough to stay with Spring Valley’s main threat.
“We have to drop back and be ready — we know she’s fast and physical, and we know what she’s capable of,” Reber said. “She’s their key player — they always look for her and we have to man-to-man mark her. We’re all going to know where she is.”
While blanketing Meyers in the attacking third, South Tahoe also aims to control play in the midfield to prevent long balls from reaching her. The Vikings will play a variety of formations against Spring Valley, with possession and quick passing key no matter how they line up.
“It’s going to be really critical in this match,” Valdivia said about the midfield. “We can’t let them play over the top or find (Meyers) — we have to force them back and play square balls.”
While focusing on defense for most of the week leading up to the state semis, South Tahoe still plans to be dynamic in attack on Friday. The Vikings will aim to get the ball wide to wingers Annie Brejc and Desi Benavidez, then bring it back in to create opportunities for leading scorer Kenya Maltase (23 goals) and Cal State Monterey Bay-bound attacker Grace Schouten.
“We need to use the whole field — that benefits us along with quick ball movement,” Salmon said.
Because of the teams’ contrasting styles of play, the first goal will be critical in Friday’s match. South Tahoe will look to pressure early in hopes of a quick goal. If the Vikings score first and build a lead, they can shift their focus to locking up Meyers.
“The girls understand the job,” Salmon said. “They know what they need to do to beat this team.”
South top seed Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas) (18-6-2), who beat Spring Valley 3-0 for the Southern Region title, hosts North second seed Truckee (16-7-1) at noon in the first semifinal. The Div. I-A State championship is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m.
“It would mean everything to us,” Reber said. “To win that would be the best way to end our season.”
South Tahoe began the 2015 season with aspirations of winning a state championship on its home field. Now two wins away, the Vikings want nothing more than to make their ultimate goal a reality.
“To lose 11 seniors, to lose our coaching staff, to have all these key injuries and still persevere — and to do it in front of a home crowd — would be incredible,” Salmon said. “It means the world to these girls and it’s such a special moment.
“That’s all we’ve been thinking about all year.”