South Tahoe girls soccer seeks fifth state championship in seven seasons after being dethroned | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe girls soccer seeks fifth state championship in seven seasons after being dethroned

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
South Tahoe seniors Amanda Muskopf (left) and Ana Garcia (right) fight for the ball during practice Tuesday, Aug. 23, at South Tahoe Middle School.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

STHS Girls Soccer 2016 Schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Casa Grande (at Petaluma), 4:30 p.m.

Aug. 27 at Montgomery, 2 p.m.

*Sept. 7 at Lowry, 5 p.m.

*Sept. 9 vs. Sparks, 5 p.m.

*Sept. 14 at Incline, 3 p.m.

*Sept. 21 at Truckee, 5 p.m.

*Sept. 23 vs. Elko, 5 p.m.

*Sept. 24 vs. Spring Creek, noon

*Sept. 28 at Fallon, 5 p.m.

*Sept. 30 vs. North Tahoe, 5 p.m.

*Oct. 5 vs. Lowry, 4 p.m.

*Oct. 8 at Sparks, noon

*Oct. 12 vs. Incline, 2 p.m.

*Oct. 19 vs. Truckee, 4 p.m.

*Oct. 21 at Elko, 4 p.m.

*Oct. 22 at Spring Creek, noon

*Oct. 25 vs. Fallon, 4 p.m.

*Oct. 29 at North Tahoe, noon

*Div. 3A Northern League

The South Tahoe girls soccer team enters the 2016 season in unfamiliar territory — chasing a state championship. The Vikings have their sights set on returning to the top of Nevada and claiming a fifth crown in seven seasons, motivated by a heartbreaking loss to end last year.

“It means a shot at redemption,” said Vikings second-year head coach Mark Salmon.

The Vikings finished as Div. I-A State runner-up in 2015, falling in a heartbreaking fashion on their home field in the championship. South Tahoe appeared poised to deliver a third straight state title all season long before things came to a crashing end in the last match of the campaign.

“It was a reality check for us — we were winning, winning, winning, winning,” said senior midfielder Jennifer Valdivia. “Coming into this season, we know we’re not unbeatable — people can beat us — and it’s good to know that.”

“It’s really important to us to take this as far as we can.”Annie BrejcVikings senior

South Tahoe has used last year’s championship defeat as motivation. For a program that expects to win a state title every season, this year’s team has that as its goal — and enters the season as one of the favorites with 13 varsity returners and talent at every position.

“It’s really important to us to take this as far as we can,” said senior midfielder Annie Brejc, “and work our best to bring home state for our school and our town one last time.”

“We want to make our mark,” senior midfielder Emma Dayberry added.

For the Vikings’ seven seniors and a handful of juniors, the 2016 season means even more than what happens on the field. Many of the team’s upperclassmen have been playing soccer together at the club level since elementary school, and see the upcoming campaign as their final chapter.

“It’s really special,” said senior forward Ana Garcia. “We saw each other grow up, and to finally finish that is going to be really hard.”

South Tahoe’s coach also used the word “special” to describe this group. Four of the team’s seniors took no time when asked what makes it that way.

“It’s incredible, it’s like a family, it’s legit,” Brejc explained.

“We’re sisters,” senior midfielder Bailee Salmon exclaimed.

“It’s a bond that’s never been broken,” Dayberry added.

“It’s a sisterhood,” Valdivia concluded.

Off and on the field, cohesion is a strong suit of this year’s South Tahoe team. And between the lines, the Vikings have the talent to match it.

“We know each other, we know how we play and we’re all deadly,” Bailee Salmon said.

South Tahoe isn’t starting the season with a set formation, and its talent around the pitch is a main reason why. The only thing that’s set is two forwards up top — likely a partnership between Garcia and junior Jocelyn Lopez — but the shape behind could look different on a match-by-match basis.

“Hopefully it’s ever-changing,” Mark Salmon said. “We really want to prepare for each game — we know our competition, so each time you should see something a little different.”

Valdivia and Bailee Salmon will anchor South Tahoe from the midfield, with Brejc and Dayberry serving as playmakers with pace on the wing. Senior Maria Martinez and junior Bailey Segers will also factor into the Vikings’ attack, which will have six legitimate scoring threats on the field a majority of the time.

“This year you could see an attack coming from anywhere — on the outside, from up top, in the middle or deep behind,” Mark Salmon said. “If you have to think about six players, that’s a pretty hard game preparation.”

If there’s a vulnerable spot on this year’s South Tahoe team, it’s the defense lined up in front of returning starting goalkeeper Claudia Janese. Senior center back Samantha Frates and right back Amanda Muskopf are stepping into bigger roles along with speedy sophomore center back Lillie McGuire — and junior Zoe Fiston leads a group vying for the left back spot.

“We’re going to be a little bit more aggressive offensively this year even though our defense is young,” Mark Salmon said. “We’re powerful enough that it’s about trying to catch up with us on offense.”

South Tahoe’s path to a Div. 3A State championship will have less of its typical Las Vegas rivals in the way, with Faith Lutheran, Sierra Vista and Spring Valley moving up a division. The Vikings’ landscape in Div. 3A Northern League will also look a little different, with Incline and North Tahoe replacing Fernley and Dayton.

“It’s nice to have Incline and North Tahoe, they both played really well and they deserve to come up,” Mark Salmon said. “It keeps you at that same level of competition throughout the year — no ups and downs, and you’re used to it every time.”

South Tahoe opens the season against Northern California opposition, facing Casa Grande (Petaluma) at Petaluma High on Friday, Aug. 26, before playing Montgomery (Santa Rosa) on Saturday, Aug. 27. The Vikings open league play at Lowry on Sept. 7.

“If we take every game seriously and put in 110 percent effort each time, we’ll be successful and where we want to be at the end of the season,” Dayberry said.