South Tahoe boys soccer rallies for hard-fought 1-1 tie against Sparks
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The tone is different when South Tahoe boys soccer team battles with Sparks, and the teams’ most recent meeting was no exception. The Vikings and Railroaders played to a hard-fought 1-1 draw on Saturday, Oct. 24, at Viking Stadium, their second tie in as many meetings this season.
“Sparks is always going to be that one team for South Tahoe,” Vikings senior Chuy Vazquez said. “It’s more emotional — it’s less technique and more heart.”
South Tahoe (7-1-6 I-A Northern) scored early in the second half to even the game after falling behind late in the first half. The result moves Sparks (14-1-4, 10-0-4) a step closer to the Div. I-A Northern League championship.
“Sparks is the most intense game — it’s always been like that and it always will be like that,” Vikings senior Gaby Martinez said. “It happens from past generations and it’s just been carried on.”
Both teams found chances hard to come by throughout the match while playing in contrasting fashion. The Vikings looked to possess the ball and build from the back while the Railroaders primarily advanced play through long balls directed at leading scorer Genaro Vazquez.
“We knew who they were going to from the last game, and we knew we had to lock him down in the back,” the Vikings’ Vazquez said. “We have the defense to do it.”
A long ball led to Sparks’ only goal of the match, which came in the last 10 minutes of the opening frame. The Railroaders sent a blast from their own half toward South Tahoe’s box, which Vikings goalkeeper Antony Lopez charged to clear — Lopez slipped on his way out and regained his footing 10 yards from goal, but it was too late.
With Lopez caught off his line, Brandon Paz hit a driven shot from 20-yards out that flew past South Tahoe’s keeper and into the back of the net. The 32nd-minute goal put Sparks ahead 1-0, and the Vikings trailed by that margin at halftime.
Shortly after the second half kicked off, South Tahoe pulled even on well-taken set piece. From 20 yards out at an angle to goal, Martinez curled a free kick into the top left corner of the net that made it 1-1 in the 45th minute.
“I knew what I was going for after the foul happened,” Martinez said. “That free kick was mine, I knew where I was going, I knew where I was placing it. It just all felt right and that’s what ended up happening.”
Martinez has now produced picturesque strikes in South Tahoe’s matches against Sparks and Truckee, its two biggest rivals. He described his reaction to the goal with “Toma,” a Spanish phrase similar to saying “This is our house.”
“There’s nothing better than scoring on your rival, because they had nothing to say about that,” Martinez said.
The deadlock remained for the rest of the match following Martinez’s strike. Both teams had chances, but neither could be separated by the time the final whistle sounded.
“It was a great game — we’re a great team and they’re a great team,” Vazquez said.
Saturday’s victory kept South Tahoe undefeated on the field, but the Vikings’ record doesn’t reflect that after they were forced to forfeit an earlier match. South Tahoe forfeited its 1-0 win over Lowry on Friday, Oct. 16, after using junior varsity players in both the JV and varsity matches that day. The Vikings are currently in fourth place and will likely finish the regular season outside of the top two.
“We know it’s there, but it’s not going to affect us. In all our heads, we’re still unbeaten,” Vazquez said. “We worked for that game, we got that goal and we got that victory — no matter what it says in the books.”
South Tahoe returned to action on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Truckee. The Vikings conclude league play at Fernley on Friday, Sept. 30 and wrap up the regular season Monday, Nov. 2, at home against Incline.
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