Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer downs Lassen 2-1 in CCCAA NorCal first round
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — In its postseason debut, the Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer team survived a familiar opponent while taking the first step toward its ultimate goal. The fifth-seeded Coyotes downed 12th-seeded Lassen College (Susanville, Calif.) 2-1 in the first round of the CCCAA NorCal Regional playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 21, scoring a late goal to knock out their conference rival and advance.
“The key was training against each other all week and really understanding that it was going to be a grind,” Coyotes coach Nick Arbelaez said. “Big players show up in big games, and we had more consistency in the 90 minutes than they did.”
Very little separated the Coyotes and Cougars in the fourth meeting between the Golden Valley Conference foes this season. Lake Tahoe (16-4-2) opened the scoring in the 35th minute when Ivan Rodriguez scored off an assist from Carlos Trujeque, and the hosts took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
“We had all of our big players step up and play some pretty significant roles,” Arbelaez said.
Lassen (14-5-2) struck quickly after the break to tie the match — Louis Callaghan scored in the 47th minute to make it 1-1. The score stayed that way for most of a back-and-forth second half until the Coyotes broke through in the last 10 minutes.
“At times we controlled it, and at times they did,” Arbelaez said. “They gave us everything they had — Lassen is a good team.”
Late in the match, Lake Tahoe’s Josh Sapsed played a ball into the box that led to a scramble in front of goal — and Sam Engler used a perfectly timed strike to bury the ball in the back of the net. Engler’s 82nd-minute goal gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead they would hang onto the rest of the way.
“They didn’t lay off the pressure as much, but we were still continuing to press forward,” Arbelaez said. “We didn’t go into defensive mode up 2-1, we still played our game and that was important.”
The Coyotes held off Lassen over the next eight minutes of regulation, then stayed in front after seven minutes of stoppage time. With 30 seconds left, Lake Tahoe goalkeeper Victor Andrades made a diving nearside save to thwart a Cougars one-on-one breakaway — that stop all but secured the win for LTCC.
“It was a lot of exhilaration and taking a deep breath,” Arbelaez said. “One down and we hit our stride.”
Saturday’s match marked the fourth time Lake Tahoe lined up across from Lassen this season. The Coyotes went 3-0-1 against the Cougars in those contests, including one-goal home wins in the last two games.
“You understand and you know each other,” Arbelaez said. “You know them, they know you and it’s almost like playing intersquad.”
Lake Tahoe has now won a first round playoff game on its home turf in each of the past two seasons. The Coyotes played in front of their biggest crowd of the campaign in Saturday’s victory, and Arbelaez said it boosted the team throughout a tight match.
“It was crazy — it was a packed house and the biggest crowd we’ve had all year,” Arbelaez said. “When we scored that second goal, they got behind us.”
The Coyotes returned to action Tuesday, Nov. 24, with a 3-2 win at fourth-seeded Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College in the CCCAA NorCal Regional second round. Lake Tahoe plays in the third round on Saturday, Nov. 28, with a berth in the state’s final four on the line.
“Once you get over that one, you find your stride — it will be really nice to see new blood in the second round,” Arbelaez said. “We’re excited for the challenge and I like our chances.”