South Tahoe girls soccer chasing the crown at 3A State tournament, opens against Western
The South Tahoe girls soccer team is concluding its 2016 season with a seventh straight state tournament appearance. For the Vikings, the objective in Las Vegas is two wins to claim the 3A State championship — which would be the fifth in program history.
“The state title is the expectation,” Vikings coach Mark Salmon said. “To be here, this is familiar ground and we know what we need to do.”
Northern second seed South Tahoe (16-6) opens the state tournament against Southern champion Western (Las Vegas) (15-4-4) in the 3A State semifinals on Friday, Nov. 11, at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex. With a 6 p.m. kickoff, the match will be played under the lights for a spot in the championship.
“All the preparation this week has been about Western,” Salmon said. “We have those 80 minutes to focus on right now — it’s been a great week of preparation and the girls are focused.”
Northern champion Truckee (20-1) will face Southern second seed SECTA (Paradise, Nev.) (14-4-3) in the other semifinal on Friday night. The semifinal winners meet Saturday, Nov. 12, at noon for the state championship.
“We need a little redemption from last year — it hurt and it stung,” Salmon said. “This leaves the girls a little piece for their senior year to finish on, and go out on a high note.”
Absent from the Southern portion of this year’s bracket are familiar opponents that were moved up a class during the summer — including Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas), who beat South Tahoe in the state title game last season. A pair of relative unknowns are representing the Southern Region, but that doesn’t make the road to a championship any easier.
“This is going to be more of that scrappy team that’s never been there before, that plays with a ton of heart and has a bigger fan base,” Salmon said. “And that’s dangerous.”
Western delivered the first regional title in program history when it beat SECTA for the 3A Southern crown, and is led by Ellyson Reynada. The senior headed to UNLV as a goalkeeper plays in the field for the Warriors, and has scored a team-high 37 goals — the second-highest total in Class 3A this season.
“We’re not going to look past the rest of the team, but it does seem to focus on [Reynada] and one other player up top,” Salmon said. “She shoots from anywhere and she’s got a huge leg.”
South Tahoe expects to face a direct style from Western, much like it saw from Truckee in the regional championship. In order to beat the Warriors, the Vikings need to pressure throughout the field and receive a strong performance from their young back line anchored by sophomore Lillie McGuire.
“It’s not just our back four, but how we play team defense — when we lose possession, how quickly do we win it back,” Salmon said. “The successful teams are the quickest in transition, and when we lose the ball, that’s more important. If we can do that, we’re the most dangerous team in the tournament.”
The Vikings’ scoring can come from any of its forwards and midfielders, presenting a scary proposition for their opponents. Senior Ana Garcia has a team-high 24 goals, in double digits along with juniors Bailey Segers (19) and Annie Brejc (15).
Should South Tahoe and Truckee both advance, Saturday’s state championship would be the fourth meeting between the rivals this season. The Vikings fell to the Wolverines in the first three contests — but gained confidence from their second-half rally when the teams met in a wild regional championship that finished 7-5.
“That’s the ultimate in perseverance and that gives us a ton of confidence,” Salmon said. “It’s difficult to beat a team four times in a row, especially at this level with these two teams.”
The Vikings are ending their season where they wanted to all along. Now South Tahoe is two wins away from finishing it the way they want to — atop the state for the fifth time in seven years.
“It’s between the ears — that’s going to be the difference,” Salmon said. “It’s playing with confidence in general and not letting the outside things influence how we play.”