Soccer swaps: Coaching changes shake up programs at LTCC, South Tahoe
A pair of coaching changes has shaken up the soccer landscape in South Lake Tahoe. And as a result, the South Tahoe girls soccer program fresh off back-to-back state championships is looking for a new head coach.
Three weeks ago, Christian DeLeon accepted the women’s soccer head coaching position at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Nev., leaving the Lake Tahoe Community College women’s program after one season. With the LTCC women’s job open, South Tahoe head coach Jeremy Evans applied was named head coach of the Coyotes on April 14.
DeLeon made his decision almost entirely based on what would be best for his family. The benefits that came along with the job at Sierra Nevada College outweighed any other factors, including making the jump from a two-year program to a four-year school.
“This job opened up at the right time, and just having that benefits safety net for my family is why I went for it,” DeLeon said. “It just happened at the right time for my family — I had to look at things long-term instead of just short-term.”
The Eagles are starting men’s and women’s soccer programs next season, and were recently accepted to compete as part of the NAIA California Pacific Conference. Under DeLeon in LTCC’s inaugural campaign, the Coyotes finished 10-5-6 and qualified for the NorCal regional playoffs.
“It was bittersweet — it was bitter to leave, but sweet to start something new at a four-year school that has a lot to offer,” DeLeon said. “Starting a new program is not the easiest thing to do, but I’m more than willing to take the challenge just like I did at LTCC.
“(The success) all goes to these girls — they were a thrown together type of team and they just did phenomenally in the first year. I’m so proud of them.”
After DeLeon left for the North Shore, LTCC reached out to Evans for its newly-vacant women’s head coaching position — and he ultimately accepted the job last week. For Evans, the Coyotes’ job represents the chance to coach collegiately without having to uproot his life in Lake Tahoe.
“I’m a competitor in everything, and I always want to challenge myself for the next level,” Evans said. “There aren’t a lot of colleges around the Lake Tahoe area, so when this happened I just decided this was the moment.”
Evans coached at South Tahoe for five seasons and served head coach of the Vikings’ girls varsity team for the last two years. South Tahoe won back-to-back NIAA Div. I-A state championships with a 39-7-4 record in Evans’ two seasons as head coach — and won four titles in his five years with the program.
“It’s really special days — when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t really appreciate it,” Evans said. “For most people it would be a no-brainer to walk away from high school and coach college — but because of how special South Tahoe soccer is, it wasn’t a no-brainer.
“It really was a hard decision, and that’s because my five years there have been so special and we’ve had so much success.”
Evans takes over an LTCC program heading into its second season. Having played soccer at the junior college level before finishing his career at Marquette, Evans understands the challenges of a two-year college soccer program — and he plans to build on the Coyotes’ first-year success.
“I don’t just want to pick any kid to win — it’s not always about that. Of course we want to win, but I think having the right kids in the program is something I see as far as a vision,” Evans said. “I’m hustling, I’m doing what I can and I think we’re going to put together a pretty solid team by August.”
With their corresponding moves, DeLeon and Evans maintained their connection established locally on the Vikings’ sidelines and continued with South Tahoe Futbol Club. After coaching boys at STHS, DeLeon moved to girls and brought Evans on as an assistant prior to the 2010 season — the two have had a strong relationship ever since.
“Jeremy is a great coach — he’s a great strategist and knows the game really well,” DeLeon said. “I am more than willing to create some kind of pipeline to help him recruit, and hopefully he can return the favor.”
“It’s a great compliment that the last two varsity coaches at South Tahoe High School are now coaching in college,” Evans said. “That speaks volumes about the quality that is at South Tahoe.”
Even after his departure, Evans expects continued success at South Tahoe. He said the tradition the Vikings have built will persist long into the future.
“No one coach and no one player is bigger than the South Tahoe High School program,” Evans said. “We’re really just a torchbearer for something that’s greater than us, and I have no hesitation saying that the success is going to continue and I’ll be their No. 1 fan for sure. “
South Tahoe’s most successful sports program over the past half-decade now enters the 2015 season under new direction. Whoever takes over the Vikings will lead team seeking three straight state titles.
“Jeremy is a class act and LTCC is very lucky to have such an asset within their athletic department,” STHS athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “We will miss him at STHS, but I feel confident that we will not skip a beat as we embark upon a season in which there is potential for winning a third consecutive state championship.”
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