South Tahoe alum makes USD team
Alex Romagnolo’s hard work on soccer fields from Reno to San Diego paid off in a spot on the University of San Diego’s team – and a red shirt to wear all year.
The red shirt is figurative, not clothing. Romagnolo, a 1999 graduate of South Tahoe High, will sit out the Toreros’ 1999 season unless one of his teammates sustains an injury, but has a promising future with the squad. During a week and a half of tryouts before the beginning of the season, Romagnolo distinguished himself enough in the eyes of USD head soccer coach Seamus McFadden to earn a spot on the Toreros varsity.
“Everybody who came out was either getting money as a freshman or had transferred over,” Romagnolo said of the 26 other players McFadden invited to tryouts.
The freshman, though, made a splash in the team scrimmages.
“I just think I played smart and didn’t have many turnovers, and I was able to see the field really well and made good passes,” he said.
While Romagnolo played defense throughout his high school career, McFadden tapped Romagnolo as a midfielder for the future of USD. Two of the team’s current center-mids are seniors, which likely means Romagnolo will have plenty of room to roam in the coming years. And the switch seems OK with Romagnolo.
“Actually, I like that position better,” he said.
Romagnolo’s chance may come earlier. USD carries only 16 on the active roster, and has no midfielders to spare. If one goes down, the Toreros will press Romagnolo into duty. He seemed comfortable with either situation, providing any injury comes in the beginning of the year, not later, when he has been on the bench.
“If it was in the beginning of the season, I’d rather play, because I’m excited, and I’ve gotten to play in a couple of (intrateam) scrimmages,” Romagnolo said.
As a redshirt, Romagnolo practices with the team. His role is to push the starters in his position.
“Right now, my main job in practice is just to pressure the heck out of the starting midfielders, so I just run my tail off,” Romagnolo said. “It’s good.”
But he would also join the team on the sideline in the postseason. If USD goes as far as it wants, that experience could mean a trip to the NCAA postseason tournament – maybe the Final Four. Last year, USD made its sixth trip to the NCAA tournament since 1990, and the Toreros enter the season ranked 24th in the NCAA poll. And Romagnolo describes it as a “big soccer school,” where soccer is the biggest sport on campus.
“It’s paradise, almost,” he said. “It’s sunny every day, between 85 and 75 (degrees). The nights are amazing, and I’ve never played on fields like this before.”
If he doesn’t get a better offer to stay down south, Romagnolo will return to the area this summer and rejoin the Reno Zephyrs semi-pro team. He joined the club four games from the end of the season last summer, as the squad won three of its last four games and nearly qualified for the playoffs.
The future could be even brighter when Romagnolo joins his college team.
“I’m one of his supporters,” said Mike Simpson, who coached Romagnolo last summer when his Reno United U18 club won the state cup last summer with a perfect record. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. He can definitely play Division I ball. Someone is getting a pretty good deal with him walking on. I know what it takes to play at that level, and he’s got it.”
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After more than 70 years of operating with a term deemed derogatory by many Native Americans, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.