Vikings kick off zone with shutout win |

Vikings kick off zone with shutout win

SPARKS — In need of a big emotional lift after losing the Sierra Division title last week, the South Tahoe High girls’ soccer team fired out of the playoff gate Saturday with a 4-0 romp of McQueen High in first-round action of the Northern Nevada 4A zone tournament at Reed High School.

For the undefeated Vikings (10-0-3) the game served as redemption from the disappointment of a tie against Carson High last week that essentially cost them a division crown by one point.

“I’m really proud that we could come in and show that we could play really good soccer,” Viking coach Julia Russell said. “We lost first place to Douglas with our last tie so we’re recovering from that, but this game has been a big part of our recovery because we’re feeling a lot of confidence now.”

After spending the first 10 minutes of the match on their heels, the Vikings began to click in the 15th minute when Jen Napier launched one of her patented 30-yard “flipping” throw-in’s into the center of the Lancer box. After a couple bobbles, sophomore forward Noli Pierini was able to beat the McQueen defense with a crafty lob shot that found the back of the net, giving the Vikings an early 1-0 advantage.

Pierini’s goal lit a fire under the squad for the rest of the half as the Vikings sustained an attack in the opposition’s zone. Midfielder Megan Hoppe possessed and distributed the ball with accuracy while Pierini, along with teammates Alyssa Reilly and Renee LaForce, pressured the Lancer net.

Ultimately, their strong efforts caused frustration in McQueen’s defense and in the 43rd minute Lancer junior Katie Albers was red carded for an aggressive tackle, reducing their side to 10 players for the remainder of the match.

Naturally, the dismissal of Albers worked in the Vikings’ favor, but Russell was quick to keep her team focused at halftime.

“We didn’t want to think we had any advantage because a lot of times having 10 players opens up more space,” she said. “We didn’t want to get ourselves into a mind-set that this was now going to be an easy second half because they had 10. We wanted to give 110 percent to every single ball, every single time we could.”

Russell’s halftime chat proved to ring true, as the Vikings picked up where they left off in the first half when Megan Hoppe struck from 20 yards out on a booming shot that just dipped under the crossbar, giving the Vikings a 2-0 lead.

“We were telling her to take some shots because she’s got one of those great high shots that sink into the net and she did it,” Russell said.

“It was a great goal.”

Hoppe’s goal was met with more intensity from the Vikings as they swarmed the Lancer zone for much of the second half.

In the 68th minute, Tracy Ketelsen nearly put the Vikings up 3-0 when she launched a free kick off the crossbar, collected her own rebound and smacked paint again.

It wasn’t until the 70th minute that Viking Tiffany VonDiemar, who had only been in the game for a matter of seconds, landed the Vikings’ third goal on a pretty left-foot touch that beat the Lancer keeper to the far post.

A fourth Viking strike came three minutes later, but the story of the game was the smothering play of the Viking back line led by junior Kristen Tener and senior keeper Sierra Shipley.

Tener single-handedly shut down seven Lancer scoring chances with her tremendous closing speed, while the Viking defense as a whole only allowed one second-half shot on goal. Shipley was busy throughout the game, coming off her line to stop would-be chances.

“She (Tener) has the speed to shut anything down and she did consistently throughout the game,” Russell said. “We need big props for the defense because of a shutout in a playoff game and those girls had a lot of chances. Our defense definitely held their own back there.”

With the win, the Vikings take what has been an elusive step in past years to the next round of the tournament as they look to keep their undefeated streak alive.

“Being undefeated all season, it gets on you mentally to be able to maintain that level,” Russell said. “We feel like we played a good game that we can be proud of.”

The Vikings will play High Desert Division champion Reed, a 1-0 winner over Carson in double overtime, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Reno High.

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