STHS boys shoot for first regional title since 1999
Gusty winds tried to pick up anything in their path and a saturated field seaped through their soccer shoes. The Sierra’s first fierce fall storm roared into the Tahoe Basin on Thursday, making outdoor games less appealing than spending an offday in a DMV line.
However, to South Tahoe High’s boys’ soccer team it was a beautiful day. Coach Joe Winters didn’t give the players a day off like NFL coaches do following a big win. That was OK by the players.
The unbeaten Vikings returned to the practice field Thursday afternoon, only 22 hours after throttling North Valleys 4-1 in the Nevada 4A Regional semifinals on Wednesday in Reno.
“We want to play out here today; it’s fun,” said STHS defensive stopper Tim Head. “We’ve worked hard all year to be in the championship, and Reed better hope they are (practicing, too).”
Winters looked at possibly using a school gym for Thursday’s practice, but already they are filled with basketball teams. That left the team with one option for practice following their chalk talk.
“They guys want to play,” Winters said.
Winters recognized that team quality when the season began and his Vikings have used it to reach Saturday’s 1 p.m. regional championship at Reno High School in Reno.
“It’s been fun because these kids are motivated,” Winters said. “Half of these guys remember last year and we know it would be a disappointment if we lost. We expect to win, so we don’t feel that pressure. The kids know they have a job to do and they go out in a workmanlike way to accomplish it.”
Reed qualified for the finals with a 2-1 victory over Reno, overcoming a 1-0 halftime deficit.
Goalie Vince Liccardi was Reed’s savior. With Reno leading 1-0 off a 30-yard bomb from Robert Langsner in the 31st minute, Liccardi saved Kenny Van Woert’s penalty kick three minutes before halftime to keep it a one-goal game.
Then only minutes after halftime, the Raiders’ Anthony Grillo played a ball out wide to Justin Platon, who drilled a shot past Felipe Miranda for the equalizer. In the 54th minute, Victor Martinez chased down a through ball, poked it around Miranda and calmly put the ball in the back of the net for the game winner.
The teams didn’t meet during the regular season, but the Vikings stayed to watch the Reed-Reno match following their semifinal win.
“They have pretty good team speed, so defensively we’ll have to be sharp in making sure they don’t get behind us,” Winters said.
Head is confident that won’t happen.
“They have a couple of fast players who we’ll have to keep our eyes on, but if we play our game, I don’t think they’ll be able to get past us,” Head said.
Defensively, the Raiders prefer to limit the number of through balls in their zone. Hence, the Vikings will have to be patient offensively.
“We’ll have to rely a little more on our possession game,” Winters said. “We’ve probably possessed the ball more than most teams. It’ll just be a test to see how it works against them.”
With more winter-like weather on the way, the condition of Reno High’s field by Saturday afternoon could affect the game’s outcome. The 4A girls’ semifinals were scheduled for Thursday night and Reno will use the field for a playoff football game Friday night.
“If we play on a chewed-up, chomped-up field, it makes possession all the more difficult,” Winters said. “If the field is like that, it might be more conducive to the plays over the top and a more direct (style) like Reed plays.”
But that is just talk and the Vikings are confident that all of their work, dedication and unity is going to carry them to their season-long goals.
“Everyone on this team has contributed some part to get where we are now. None of us are about to let our season end now,” Head said. “It’s only one more step in our goal to reach the state championship.”
— Nevada Appeal sportswriter Jeremy Evans contributed to this story.
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