Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer shows shootout savvy, beats Santa Rosa in playoff opener
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer team spent the two weeks leading up to the CCCAA NorCal Regional playoffs preparing for a penalty shootout. That extra preparation paid off in its postseason opener.
The sixth-seeded Coyotes beat 11th-seeded Santa Rosa Junior College 4-3 in penalty kicks following 120 minutes of scoreless action in the first round Saturday, converting all four of its kicks to advance in dramatic fashion. For LTCC, it marks the first postseason win in program history.
“These guys deserve it — we’ve been through a lot and I feel like they deserve to win,” Coyotes head coach Ben Wade said. “It was very satisfying.”
After a pair of scoreless halves and 15-minute overtime periods, Lake Tahoe (14-4-3) lost the coin toss and kicked second in the shootout. Before the Coyotes had a player step to the spot, goalkeeper Cameron McConnachie immediately set the tone — the keeper brought in late in the second overtime dove to his right and stopped a shot from Bear Cubs forward Angel Acevedo.
“The fear of my nerves and goosebumps were all kicking in but when I jumped in, I just knew I had it today — I could just tell,” said McConnachie, who replaced starting keeper Kyle Clark in the 117th minute. “Luckily I read it right — as soon as I saved that, I knew the team had it.”
Following McConnachie’s save, Lake Tahoe took the lead when midfielder Mauricio Torrealba hit a low shot into the right corner of the goal. That strike was the first of seven successful penalties, capped when defender Alex Staines put a lined shot into the right side of the goal to put the Coyotes up 4-3 after the fourth round of kicks.
“I just tried to block out the nervousness — go up there, do my own thing and make sure I scored,” Staines said. “Today it came off and I bagged the winning penalty.”
Santa Rosa (10-6-5) needed a goal in the fifth round to stay alive — and couldn’t convert. Midfielder Andrew Carlile fired a shot off the crossbar, securing victory for LTCC and sending Coyotes’ players racing toward the penalty box where they celebrated in a frenzied mob.
“It was just elation — absolute elation,” Staines said. “The amount of work that it has taken to get this program up and running — we’re here representing the first year.”
Lake Tahoe didn’t practice penalty kicks during the regular season, but devoted practice time to them in advance of the playoffs. In practice, the Coyotes began with all their players taking spot kicks before narrowing down to a top eight — the night before facing Santa Rosa, the simulation was taken to another level.
“We ended practice with the entire team sitting on the midfield line and one guy walking down all the way to the end to take the PK — it was really helpful just to get these guys mentally ready,” Wade said. “The last couple days, it was ‘you miss, you’re out’ — I think that they were ready for the pressure.”
Lake Tahoe couldn’t find the back of the net in regulation or overtime — but the Coyotes felt confident headed into the shootout. LTCC made all four of its penalties — forward Michael Akin and midfielder Soeren Gelbrecht converted along with Torrealba and Staines — while Santa Rosa only scored on two of its four.
“Going into PKs, I told the guys when I was out on the field with them that we’ve won — our goalkeeper is going to save one, and you guys are going to make all of yours,” Wade said. “When our goalkeeper saved the first one, we were very, very confident that we would have it.”
In the 120 minutes prior to the shootout, nothing could separate the Coyotes from the Big 8 Conference champion Bear Cubs in a physical contest. Lake Tahoe had more scoring opportunities than Santa Rosa in regulation and overtime, but was repeatedly thwarted by Bear Cubs goalkeeper Ariel Rosenmann.
“I thought we had the better chances — they had a couple of chances and their keeper made a couple of great saves to keep them in the game,” Coyotes defender Josh Jirbandey said. “They gave us a tough game — a real battle — and we were expecting that.”
The Coyotes’ best scoring chance came midway through the second half. A through ball sent forward Sam Kitchen into the box for a one-on-one against Rosenmann — but Santa Rosa’s keeper pushed the shot wide to keep the match scoreless.
Just before the end of regulation, Acevedo nearly produced a late winner for Santa Rosa — but he fired a shot just wide on a breakaway chance. The teams remained tied after overtime despite Lake Tahoe holding a 5-2 advantage in chances and taking six corner kicks during the last 30 minutes.
“This is a quality side, and we had more chances against them than we’ve had against other sides that were not as good as them,” Wade said. “In the second half, we hammered them — we had shot after shot after header that we thought for sure were going to be goals.”
Lake Tahoe earned its first playoff victory on its home pitch before a crowd that bore cool temperatures and intermittent rain throughout Saturday’s match. During the shootout, Coyotes’ fans howled during Santa Rosa attempts and stayed reserved with LTCC players at the spot.
“There’s not a junior college team in the nation that has fans like this — it’s unbelievable,” Wade said.
In the second round Tuesday, Lake Tahoe lost at third-seeded West Valley in a shootout after ending overtime tied 1-1. A recap will appear in an upcoming edition of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
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