Vikings get their kicks en route to zone championship
It took more than 100 minutes of soccer and 10 penalty kicks, but South Tahoe’s boys finally capped their undefeated season with the zone title Saturday.
South Tahoe’s final penalty kick, from senior Steve Fruitman, sealed a 4-3 PK win to break a 1-1 tie with rival Douglas and win the Northern Nevada 4A zone title in Carson City.
The two teams battled through two 40-minute halves, two 10-minute overtimes, two five-minute sudden-death overtimes and and nine penalty kicks dead even. But Fruitman was the fourth South Tahoe kicker to convert his PK, and Vikings keeper Peter Chiarpotti made a pivotal save to give the Vikings the win.
“We practiced them in practice and I just picked the corner I always go with and put it in,” said Fruitman, who clinched the win with a shot to the bottom left corner past Douglas keeper Chad Love. “That was a lot of pressure, because I didn’t want to go into sudden-death.
“I didn’t know I was going to shoot fifth at first, and then (coach Joe Winters) told me, and it was a lot of pressure because I knew it was going to come down to that.”
Douglas shot first, which gave South Tahoe a 3-3 tie with Fruitman’s kick coming. Paul Wilson, Dave Brown and Evan Baker had converted for South Tahoe. Nick Hernandez, Dylan Sheridan and T. J. Plummer made their kicks for Douglas, but Chiarpotti’s stop on Robbie Honer gave Fruitman the opportunity to end it.
“I should have stopped the other,” said Chiarpotti, who had a hand on Plummer’s shot, but couldn’t stop it. The sophomore keeper allowed just one goal, on a penalty shot in the game’s 33rd minute. Chiarpotti drew confidence from his defense throughout the game, and liked his team’s chances in PKs.
“Anyone from my team I was comfortable with, especially those guys.”
The break before penalty kicks gave both coaches precious little time to instruct their teams. While neither coach considered penalty kicks the best way to end the marathon match, it did provide some sense of closure to a series that raged back and forth all season, as South Tahoe improved to 2-0-1 against the Tigers, with two of the games ending regulation time tied.
“The PKs and stuff, that’s not even part of what the kids did today,” said Douglas head coach Phillip Sheridan. “I’m surprised, given that Tahoe’s undefeated this season, they stayed with them all day.”
Winters, who likened a penalty kick to a 40-foot buzzer-beater in basketball, said he just sent four seniors and a junior on the field to sort it out themselves.
“I just kind of wanted them to sort it out in their own heads,” Winters said. “Peter did a great job in goal, and Steve Fruitman did a good job of getting that last one in there.”
Neither season ended, though, after the five-overtime epic. Both teams advance to the state tournament Nov. 12-13 at Carson, where South Tahoe draws the second seed from southern Nevada, while Douglas plays the first.
“This game, we were motivated to win, but it wasn’t the most important thing, in our minds,” said Phillip Sheridan, who likes his team’s chances to rebound from Saturday in time for state. “Our focus is going to be the first game next Friday.”
South Tahoe is 22-0-4 overall on the season, 17-0-4 in league play, while Douglas fell to 14-4-2 with the loss. They finished 1-2 in the Northern Nevada 4A Division II standings this season after dueling for the title during the middle of the league schedule. South Tahoe won the first meeting between the two at home, before Douglas forged a tie in the second meeting in Minden. But the Vikings clinched the regular-season division title and the zone championship.
“I knew we’d do it from the beginning of the season” said Wilson, a senior fullback for the Vikings, who complemented his usual performance as a defensive black hole – sucking in every 50-50 ball that came his way – by converting his first-ever penalty shot in extra time. “All those other teams are pretty good, but they don’t have the heart we do.
“I knew if I gave up, they had the chance,” he said. “We had to leave everything out on the field.”
South Tahoe took the early lead, from a goal junior Miguel Jiminez scored off a rebound from Baker, but Douglas evened the score before halftime. After a foul in the box in front of Chiarpotti, Rex Belshaw converted the kick from near-point-blank range. Baker and Andy Butcher kept the pressure on Love in the second half, and Douglas’s Dylan Sheridan and Dave Harder did the same at the other end.
Both teams missed a few golden opportunities in overtime: Jiminez nailed the crossbar in the first extra period, Dylan Sheridan sent one shot humming over the Vikings’ goal in the third, and Wilson, Ryan Daugherty and Aguilar kept the Douglas forwards busy long enough to protect Chiarpotti, who left the goal to make one save. Neither team could gain an advantage, and the shooters had to sweat it out in the middle of the field.
“It’s the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve endured in my life,” Wilson said.
Douglas, the second seed from Division II, upset top-seeded McQueen on Friday to make the finals. South Tahoe beat Reed 2-0 to get in the final. After a season-long battle, very little separated the two rivals in the zone final. The series might not be over, however: If both teams win their first-round state championship games next weekend, they would meet again in the state finals.
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