So who is better, ’99 Vikings or present team? |

So who is better, ’99 Vikings or present team?

Column by Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Their undefeated run to the state semifinals has fostered comparisons to the 1999 South Tahoe High boys’ soccer team, which won them all until the state championship game.

Now that the 2002 Vikings are two victories away from completing the school’s first undefeated season and state championship, I guess it’s not premature to speculate that South Lake Tahoe may be witnessing the best team ever assembled in the area.

Even veteran coach Joe Winters concedes that his present club is stronger in various areas.

“The 1999 team was a very, very good team, but on this team we have more offensive players, our defensive is technically stronger and overall the skill level and team speed is better than that team,” Winters said.

STHS senior captain Noe Estrada was a junior varsity player when the Vikings were state runners-up in 1999, losing to Green Valley 1-0 in the finals. Starring for the 1999 club were Evan Baker, Dave Brown, Paul Wilson, William Aguilar, Andy Butcher and Peter Chiarpotti. Estrada remembers a “bigger and more physical” team than the unbeaten one he now leads.

Even scarier is the fact that Winters’ present team is younger than the 1999 club. Winters will welcome back 19 of 22 players next year.

Opponents haven’t been able to expose any weaknesses as the Vikings have stormed to Sierra Division and Northern 4A Regional titles. Highly skilled midfielders, blazing speed on the wings and unselfish passers and a stingy defense have enabled the Vikings to spend almost entire games on the attack.

The Vikings outshot Reed 17-1 in the first half of their 3-0 regional championship victory Saturday in Reno, reducing Reed goalie Vince Liccardi to resort to unsportsmanlike tactics in the second half to defend his territory.

Reed wasn’t the first team to be frustrated by the Vikings’ relentless attack and certainly won’t be the last. If Centennial, Bishop Gorman and Chaparral presume that it’s a three-horse race for the title, then they are making a grave error.

The North has only won three state championships since 1988, but the Vikings are poised to make it four. Many soccer fans in Las Vegas are probably asking, ‘How can a team that plays in the mountains possibly beat a Las Vegas school that plays year-round?”

“We practice here year-round, too, but they don’t know that,” said Estrada. “They better be prepared because I know we’re ready. This team passes well, we talk, our offense is so good and our defense is solid, too.”

Centennial fourth-year coach Rick Kazee didn’t send a contingent of assistants to Reno to scout the Vikings last weekend, but he says he’s not taking them for granted.

“I don’t know anything about South Tahoe, but we’re going to assume they are the very best team we’ve played this year,” Kazee said. “If we think we have it (made) because we’re playing a team from the North, we’re going to have our heads handed to us. We’re looking at Tahoe as a team we have to beat to get where we want to be.”

The Vikings are carrying the North on their shoulders and there couldn’t be a better representative.

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