Playoffs: South Tahoe plays intense, physical game but falls to Fernley in quarterfinals (Gallery)
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Tahoe wanted it. Fernley wanted it. The two teams engaged in a hard fought soccer struggle that went into overtime.
The large crowd at Viking Stadium Thursday night under starry skies made exciting moments even more dramatic.
An intense, life-or-death playoff game came down to a penalty kick that Fernley converted ending the Vikings season with a 2-1 loss in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 3A Boys’ Northern Region Championships.
“I didn’t think we were going to give up a PK,” said Vikings head Leon Abravanel. “That was a bold call for the referee to make in that moment. My player’s back was turned and he’s turning around and it hits him in the arm and it’s a PK? It’s a pretty bold call to make in the playoffs.”
Following the penalty kick conversion, the Vaqueros and fan base wildly celebrated while the Vikings and their supporters were left gutted.
Viking players dropped on the field where they stood moments before the final kick, heads in their hands. Players on the bench stared blankly ahead. All were suffering the agony of defeat and the realization that the season was over.
Abravanel brought his team together near midfield and told them he was proud and loved them all. Moments later he went to each of the kids and gave them a hug, whether or not they felt like hugging with the wound of losing still wide open.
“I don’t think it was our effort, at all, I think it was a nerve thing,”Abravanel said. “It’s a maturity thing as well. We’re a young team that struggled with maturity and maturity can go a long way in those big moments. The moment can overtake you especially if you’ve never been there. Experience helps a lot.”
Fernley broke a scoreless tie in the second half on a solid goal, a shot blasted into the net from inside the Vikings box.
The Vaqueros had a few opportunities in the first half, a couple from point blank range that Vikings goalie Devon Wright denied.
The Vikings had their chances as well, including one where the ball just would not go into the net. It was like an invisible barrier was protecting the goal.
The ball was bouncing around between several players just a few feet in front of the net. Three different Vikings put their foot on the ball and took shots, but it unluckily deflected off either defenders or their own players.
The ball eventually was cleared leaving the Vikings and their fans stunned and disbelieving.
South Tahoe eventually tied the game on a goal by a freshman.
Isaac Borrayo hit a shot with his off foot, his left, from about 22 yards that the goalie couldn’t reach high enough to stop. The ball grazed his fingers as the ball went into the net.
“The ball was bouncing around, and it came out to Isaac and he hit it with his left foot,” Abravanel said. “It was a good hit and that definitely changed the momentum.”
The goal came with just a few minutes left in the game and residents in the local neighborhood likely heard the roar from the crowd.
South Tahoe attacked for the final couple of minutes but couldn’t record the game-winner.
“I think Fernley did a really good job,” Abravanel said. “(Them) Playing 2A, undefeated, that didn’t tell me a lot about them. They played like an undefeated team for sure. They didn’t go away and kept pressing us and working hard. And they had a lot of seniors.”
The fifth-seeded Vikings finished the season at 10-10-1 overall and 9-8-1 in the 3A Northern League.
South Tahoe will lose six seniors from its 20-man roster and Abravanel said the key is to start working toward next year.
“Frankly as a program we need to work harder,” Abravanel said. “All the kids that experienced this need to remember it and put in the work. Our junior, sophomore and freshmen classes are phenomenal and we should be at the top of league next year.”