Vikings looking good — as usual |

Vikings looking good — as usual

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Jim GrantJ.J. Torres of STHS works the ball during a team scrimmage at the South TahoeMiddle School last Wednesday

You know your program is where it should be when the emphasis before the season isn’t making the playoffs but winning regional and state titles.

Because of a strong work ethic and highly skilled players, South Tahoe High expects to make the playoffs year after year. With a returning nucleus that includes several of the most talented players in the North, the Vikings have the firepower to contend for a 2002 regional title.

“We could have won it last year … we should have won it the year before,” said STHS center midfielder Leon Abravanel. “It’s not happening, but hopefully this year will be the year. I think it can be.”

Tenth-year Viking coach Joe Winters anticipates opposing coaches focusing game plans around stopping high-scoring Alex Torres. He doesn’t know if his foes are ready for the other attackers in the lineup.

“We have five other guys who can score,” Winters said.

What Winters really likes about his scorers is their offensive creativity.

“We have guys who can shoot, we have guys who can score, but what we really have are guys who can create shots for themselves,” said Winters, who has experienced one losing season at STHS, serving nine as a varsity coach and one at the JV level.

This season doesn’t figure to be his second losing campaign. With a talent-laden junior class and four all-league-type players in Torres, Abravanel, Tim Head and Noe Estrada, the Vikings should make a strong defense of their 2001 Sierra Division title.

“We’re shaping up to be a pretty good team,” Winters said. “I think we have a lot of skill. Our speed is better than in the past, but we’re not a very big team.”

With the team’s tallest player 5-foot-11, Winters wants to capitalize on the Vikings’ assets.

“We’re going to have to work extra hard and have a higher work ethic than these other teams, because we’re not going to win a lot of balls out of the air,” Winters said. “We’re going to have to pass the ball real well and play a real quick game of soccer.”

Winters’ teams have historically started fast because of intense preseason workouts. Practice opens each day with a run covering 3 1/2 miles to Pioneer Trail and back. The Vikings also must run 2 miles under 14 minutes to remain on the varsity squad. Footwork drills and plyometrics also are focal points during practices.

One player who has really bought into Winters’ methods is Noe, a senior, who ran the first timed 2-miler in 11 minutes, 58 seconds.

“He’s, by far, our leader,” Winters said of his team captain. “He could play any position on the field, and he has a work rate higher than any other player than I’ve had in a lot of years.”

Other key players are juniors Jordan Boles, Tyson Cunningham and Joe Ferreira and sophomore Corey Vermillion.

The big question mark for the Vikings is replacing four-year varsity goalie Peter Chiarpotti, who has moved on to Santa Rosa Junior College. Winters has four players competing for the position and no clear-cut starter has emerged.

Contending to start between the pipes are juniors Tobin Lindstrom and Kyle O’Connor, senior Tony Garcia and sophomore J.J. Torres.

“Following in Peter’s footsteps is going to be tough,” Winters said. “It might be a battle all year. It might one of those quarterback-type issues, taking a guy in or out every other game.”

An unfortunate trend of heartbreaking postseason shootout defeats has abruptly ended successful season after successful season, including last year when the top-seeded Vikings lost to fourth-seeded Sparks in the first round of regionals.

“Hopefully we don’t have to get in a shootout,” Head said. “I think our season has a lot of potential. We’re young, but we all work hard.

“We’re getting in shape right now, so hopefully we’ll come out and surprise everybody.”

Coach: Joe Winters, ninth year varsity, 10th overall.

Last year: 11-4-1, won Sierra division, lost in first round of regional tournament.

Key Returners: Alex Torres, Leon Abravanel, Tim Head, Noe Estrada and Enrique Avina.

Opener: Aug. 30 in Warrior Cup in Zephyr Cove.

Key to success: How quickly will the Vikings’ first goalie other than Peter Chiarpotti in the past four years develop?

2002 STHS Boys Varsity Soccer Schedule

8/30-31 Warrior Cup Away TBA

9/4 Spanish Springs Away 7 p.m.

9/6 North Valleys Home 3:30 p.m.

9/11 Reno High Sch. Home 3:30 p.m.

9/18 Douglas Home 3:30 p.m

9/21 Hug Home 11 a.m.

9/25 Fallon Home 3:30 p.m.

9/28 Wooster Home 1 p.m.

10/02 Carson Home 3:30 p.m.

10/05 Douglas Away 11 a.m.

10/09 Hug Away 3:30 p.m.

10/12 Reno High Sch. Away 1:00 p.m.

10/16 Wooster Away 5:00 p.m.

10/19 Elko Home 11 a.m.

10/23 North Valleys Away 3 p.m.

10/30 Carson Away 3 p.m.

11/02 Regionals 11/2-11/19 Away TBA

11/15 State 11/15-11/16 LV Away TBA

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