Vikings hope to score early on North Valleys |

Vikings hope to score early on North Valleys

Gary Kank, Tribune correspondentSouth Tahoe High junior Alex Torres attempts a shot during the Vikings' 3-1 Nevada 4A Regional Tournament win over Fallon on Saturday in Sparks

Alex Torres is no dummy, but in recent South Tahoe High School soccer games he’s been playing the role brilliantly.

Torres, the leading Viking scorer during the regular season, has been acting as a decoy in recent game to foil opponents and give his team a different scoring strategy.

And it’s been working. South Tahoe clinched first place in the regular season and maintained its undefeated record without depending on their top gun to put the ball in the net.

Vikings such as Leon Abravanel, Victor Mariscal, Enrique Avina and Corey Vermillion, among others, have stepped up when Torres is double or tripled-teamed. It’s put their opponents in a difficult position: Double team Torres and give the rest of the Viking more room, or give Torres breathing room in favor of defending the rest of the team. Both strategies are proving to have their weaknesses.

Torres scored for the first time in five games during the first round of zone Saturday, demonstrating that as teams catch onto the ploy and shift to the rest of the Viking lineup, Torres is again pulling off the shots.

The season is unfolding precisely as South Tahoe coach Joe Winters planned. But that strategy will again be put to the test Wednesday when the Vikings take on North Valleys in the semifinal round of the 4A Northern Regionals.

North Valleys tied South Tahoe 1-1 in the Vikings’ division opener when the Panthers double teamed Torres and kept the rest of the Viking attackers at bay. South Tahoe became anxious and forced shots.

Using a different strategy later in the year, the Vikings defeated North Valleys 3-1 when Torres functioned as the decoy.

The Vikings hope to use that strategy again.

But North Valley’s zone defense and conservative defensive play that stacks a midfielder in the box could prove tricky for South Tahoe.

If the Panthers play for a tie, as Winters expects them to do, the game could be decided in overtime or with the “dreaded” penalty kicks, as occurred in the first round of zone last year that sent the Vikings packing.

“We need to score and score early, then the game will be more to our liking,” Winters said during practice Monday.

If the Vikings can spread out the Panthers and force them to challenge offensively, it will open up more opportunities for Viking goals.

“They’re a talented team in that they can score, but not talented enough to keep us from scoring,” Winters said.

It doesn’t matter who the goals come from. South Tahoe is a team that wants vindication from 2001.

“It’s not all about scoring,” Torres said. “Last year, we choked in the first round. We want to go to Vegas as a team and have fun and win.”

Abravanel, a top scorer and the team’s biggest playmaker, said he’s concerned about North Valleys. He’s not expecting Wednesday’s game to be as smooth as the last time.

“It’s vital that we knock the ball around and hustle. They’re aggressive and quick,” he said.

South Tahoe has a history with North Valleys and he expects the Panthers to come out hard.

Abravanel’s confident, though, in the scoring ability of the rest of the Viking lineup.

“Our team can definitely finish with a lot of different people … we’ve had a bunch of other players with six or seven goals this year,” he said.

Intensity at practice is something he hopes will rise. He said the team practiced hard last week and it paid off. He hopes for the same dividends on Wednesday.

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