South Tahoe loses first match, in state soccer final
South Tahoe’s masterpiece of a soccer season finally ended on Saturday when the Vikings came up one goal short of a state championship.
The Vikings, nearly flawless in close matches this season, finally encountered a one-goal match they couldn’t win, as Green Valley scored first and held on to win the Nevada 4A boys title in Carson City. The Gators, who had suffered only one loss all season, won a defensive struggle on Saturday, handing South Tahoe its only loss of the season in the state final.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said South Tahoe head coach Joe Winters whose Vikings ended the season with an overall record of 23-1-4, 18-1-4 against the rest of the Nevada 4A. “It’s the only loss they had all season. They’ve got to hold their heads up.”
Unlike other teams, which packed in the defense to keep South Tahoe’s offense at bay, Green Valley came out shooting from the first minute. The Gators had the eventual game-winner in the 16th minute, when forward Tyson Miller headed in a loose ball off a corner kick – the only goal South Tahoe allowed in its two state tournament games.
“I think we were pretty much playing defensively the whole game,” said South Tahoe senior forward Andy Butcher. “We played as hard as we can, and we usually came out on top. This time, we didn’t.”
Green Valley outshot South Tahoe 14-8 in the first half, and put eight shots on goal. Sophomore keeper Peter Chiarpotti, brilliant in South Tahoe’s semifinal win over Bishop Gorman, helped keep the Vikings in the game, but couldn’t get to Miller’s header before it had crossed the goal line.
The Vikings came out in the second half with a re-energized offense that seemed more desperate as the clock dipped down. The Vikings dominated corner kicks, with five in the second half, but couldn’t punch one in. Gustavo Romero almost had the equalizer in the 70th minute, banging a shot off the crossbar, and Butcher put a shot just over the goal a few seconds later. Green Valley, though, hemmed the Vikings offense behind midfield for most of the way with high pressure of its own from Miller and senior Chris Kircher.
“They just showed so much pride,” Kircher said of South Tahoe’s team. “They didn’t give up. They deserved everything they could get.”
After senior midfielder Miguel Jimenez – who scored the winning goal in Friday’s semifinal win over Gorman – and Butcher missed their shots on loose balls off a scramble in the 76th minute, Green Valley had repelled the biggest threats to their lead. Green Valley had ended a season-long, 23-game unbeaten streak for South Tahoe, a streak that began with the Vikings winning the season-opening Vacaville Kickoff Classic on Aug. 2. That South Tahoe was so dominant in league play this year will probably sink in later, but the mood on the Vikings sideline after the final seemed to be disbelief.
“We’re pretty proud of the season, and this is just icing on the cake to get this far, and it didn’t turn out (our) way,” Butcher said.
Green Valley, though, set the tone early. The Gators took South Tahoe out of its precise short-passing game, and kept the pressure up, forcing South Tahoe into a long-ball offense the Vikings clearly were uncomfortable with.
“We kind of got sucked into their game,” Winters said. “It was like a runaway train – once it started, we couldn’t get out of it.”
Gorman also took South Tahoe out of its game plan, but the Vikings were able to keep the Gaels out of the goal and salvage a 1-0 win on Jimenez’s early score. Gorman was just as aggressive and physical as Green Valley, but Winters didn’t seem to think a letdown or fatigue cost his Vikings Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think it was as much of that as we got anxious and started to play too direct,” Winters said.
In Friday’s semifinal, Chiarpotti proved why Winters says he has the best goalkeeper in the state. With the crowd chanting “MVPete,” the sophomore repelled a furious charge from the Gaels offense.
“I’ve never been tested this much, ever in my life,” Chiarpotti said after Friday’s win. “I feel like this is the best game of my goalie career.”
Chiarpotti stopped most of Bishop Gorman’s chances off corner kicks and on breakaways cold, and on the few occasions when he bobbled a shot, defenders William Aguilar, Jon McKean, Ryan Daugherty and Paul Wilson made the plays that kept the Gaels out of the goal. Wilson headed out one high shot in front of an empty box late in the second half, and the line made another miraculous clear on a rebound after Chiarpotti left the box for a save.
The momentum seemed to turn toward the Vikings after Jimenez’s goal, but Gorman kept the pressure on. Senior co-captain Evan Baker fed Jimenez a pass, and Jimenez seemed relieved when it resulted in the go-ahead score.
“I’ve never been in a game like this before,” he said. “Last year, we got into the (zone) semifinals, but we got taken out, so it feels good.”
On Friday, Gorman couldn’t make up the difference despite a furious offensive effort.
“I think we dominated the game, we just couldn’t put the ball in the net,” said Bishop Gorman head coach Victor Arbelaez. “We just made one mistake, and it cost us.
“I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
The tables turned on South Tahoe the next day. After a season of dominating opponents, out-gutting rivals and, on a few occasions transforming desperate situations into victories out of sheer force of will, one team finally came out a goal better than the Vikings.
“Sometimes, one goal is going to hold up,” Winters said Friday.
On Saturday, another one did.
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