Vikings ready to party like it’s 1999
The surge in popularity of soccer has given South Tahoe High’s girls the shot in the arm they need to shoot for a winning season.
The Women’s World Cup this summer was just a part of it: After four years with a new coach every season, head coach Julia Peyser returns to the program as head coach for her second season, along with six seniors from last year’s team. Combine the returning talent with a number of players who have advanced through the city’s swelling youth soccer ranks, and South Tahoe may be able to improve on last year’s 8-9-1 season, which ended in the first round of the zone playoffs.
“This is a new year, a different year,” said Peyser, who played soccer at California University of Pennsylvania before assuming control of South Tahoe’s program last season. “What we’re really trying to do is establish the program, get something that’s secure and consistent.”
During practice this week, the team is laying the groundwork to do just that: Samantha Donaldson, the team’s varsity cross-trainer, joins Peyser on the varsity staff to help the team build its conditioning. Two new coaches, Joyce Lockhart and Randy Volkmar, will improve the team’s infrastructure from the junior varsity level when the coaches make the final junior varsity cuts at the end of this week.
“(Volkmar and Lockhart) really brought a lot to the program, also,” Peyser said. “Nothing better has happened for this program than these two.”
The season officially begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with a home game against Elko. While South Tahoe has just a few days to get ready, the team has been improving in the off-season. The team’s six seniors – Jen Hamm, Kelly Huck, Sarah Junge, Emily Magana, Katy Orr and Tirah Samura – returned to camp last week with quicker mile times that highlighted a summer of hard, individual work.
“The difference, I think, is in the cross-training, the flexibility, the no-injury policy we have going on,” Peyser said. “It’s in the attitude, in the motivation.”
That’s where Donaldson comes in, helping mold the team into a well-conditioned unit, from the seniors, to the six juniors and six sophomores, to Kelly Humphreys, the only freshman who made the varsity cut. Donaldson said the only way the team is going to get faster is by alternating speed work with endurance runs, like the four-miler the team undertook in practice.
“I want to develop their endurance,” Donaldson said. “I don’t want to pummel them. I want to develop them.
“We just really want to see good habits developed in these girls that they can carry on through their lives,” she said.
It also should benefit the players on the soccer field in the tough Northern Nevada 4A League. South Tahoe will enter the season with a 4-3-3 alignment that highlight’s the team’s defensive strength with sweeper Katrina Clapp heading a four-player defensive diamond in the back. Junge, one of the returning seniors and the player the team voted its most valuable last season, will anchor South Tahoe in goal.
“She’s very strong,” Peyser said. “She has very good presence in the goal.”
But, as Peyser pointed out, a team can’t win games if it can’t score. And the 4-3-3 gives the Vikings more offensive punch with an extra forward over a 4-4-2 alignment. Peyser can experiment with the team, find out who works best in what position beginning today when South Tahoe takes on Whittell in a 4 p.m. scrimmage. But fans shouldn’t expect the tinkering to stop there.
“I think this year is a year of experimentation,” Peyser said “We’re really going to mix things up and see what we’ve got.”
The Vikings probably would like to know by their first game, an 11 a.m. Saturday home meeting with Elko. Last season, Tahoe was up at 4:30 a.m. to travel across the state, and led 1-0, but Elko came back to tie the game and eventually win, 2-1. The coaching staff wants the Vikings to get off on the right foot this season.
“We plan on winning that game this year,” Peyser said.
The second game, another home match, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 31 against Reno, also stands out as a big one. The two programs, which Peyser considers about on the same level, tied in the first meeting last year, and Reno won the second. Reno and South Tahoe meet again at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 19, also on South Tahoe’s home field.
Four matches that provide important measures of South Tahoe’s potential to advance in the playoffs – which begin with the zone tournament Nov. 2-6 – come later in the season. The Vikings play Douglas twice – at home Sept. 11 and at Douglas on Oct. 12 – and Carson twice – at home Sept. 21, and at Carson on Oct. 16.
“They really have good, established teams down there,” Peyser said.
So far, 1999 has been the year of the woman in sports, and the World Cup has made it one of the best things to happen to soccer. If South Tahoe’s soccer team can find a system that works, 1999 could be that kind of year for the Vikings.
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.