MINDEN, Nev. — When opportunity knocked, the North Tahoe boys soccer team was right there to answer the door Thursday afternoon on its way to a 4-1 season-opening victory at Douglas.
Senior Chase Whitney had two goals and one assist while Lucas Earley converted a penalty kick in the final moments before halftime to help lift the Lakers in a matchup between young teams in the nonleague contest.
A goal by Oliver Lopez tied the score 1-1 in the 19th minute, however, the Tigers were unable to sustain their momentum against a North Tahoe squad that finished as the Division III state tournament runner-up in 2013.
This was just the start in a building process for Douglas, according to Milko Vasquez, who has returned as the program’s head coach after a two-year hiatus.
“We have a lot to work on,” Vasquez said. “We’re young and it showed today.”
The Tigers have eight returnees from a team that went 2-10-4 last season, but only have four seniors. North Tahoe only has five seniors on its roster, however, the Lakers received contributions from some of their younger players.
“We played well today,” longtime North Tahoe coach Beto Alcaraz said. “For our first official game out, the boys played very well together.”
Whitney’s goal in the 13th minute off an assist from Omar Cerda gave the Lakers a 1-0 lead.
Douglas scored the equalizer six minutes later when Carlos Lopez crossed the ball to the right goalpost. His cousin, Oliver Lopez, took the ball out of the air with a header past the post.
Cerda scored the go-ahead goal for North Tahoe on a follow shot in the 25th minute.
Douglas had an opportunity to tie the score again two minutes later when Flavio Lopez lined up for a penalty kick, however, sophomore goalkeeper Trent Lingruen went to his right to stop the grounder. Lingruen was making his first start at goalkeeper for the Lakers.
“I think we gave them two easy goals, but they gave us a couple of opportunities and we didn’t capitalize,” Vasquez said.
North Tahoe extended its lead to 3-1 on a penalty kick at the end of the first half when senior Lucas Earley stroked a grounder into the right corner of the net.
Douglas had three scoring opportunities midway through the second half, including a one-on-one shot by sophomore Josh Gurule in which the Lakers’ Lingruen came out of the net to make the stop. Flavio Lopez also had a breakaway attempt with eight minutes to go that caromed off the right goalpost.
Meanwhile, North Tahoe capped its scoring in the 60th minute on Whitney’s second goal of the day, this time assisted by freshman Juan Pablo Herrera.
“You can tell they’re a seasoned team,” Vasquez said of the Lakers. “They go to the state tournament every year and that experience shows.”
North Tahoe lost 3-1 to Incline in the Division III state title game last year.
Vasquez took the reins as head coach in 2005 and posted a 77-50-14 record in six seasons. During that time, the Tigers reached the region championship game three times and twice qualified for the state tournament, including a regional title in 2007.