North Tahoe at Incline soccer | Incline boys win state rematch over Lakers | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe at Incline soccer | Incline boys win state rematch over Lakers

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE — Referees issued yellow cards liberally, the visiting stands overflowed with vocal fans, and players scrapped till the final seconds in a game that could have gone either way.

Tuesday's league showdown was a typical clash between the rival Incline and North Tahoe boys soccer teams.

The Highlanders left with bragging rights after taking an early 2-0 lead and then breaking a 2-2 tie in the second half en route to a 4-2 win.

"That was my first time on the coaching side of it. It was exciting," first-year Incline coach Michael Coudriet said of the Division III rivalry, which was a rematch of last year's state championship. "It was what I expected it would be. It was close right down to the final minutes."

In the first real league test for both teams, the defending champion Highlanders jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes with a pair of clinically executed goals off of crosses.

Seven minutes into the contest, Incline senior Sal Vargas sent a ball from the wing to the front of the goal, where freshman Adrian Banuelos one-touched it past North Tahoe goalie Trent Lingruen.

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Less than minute later Brayan Martinez crossed a ball in similar fashion from the wing, and Vargas hit it out of the air and into the North Tahoe goal.

"We've been working on spreading the field wide. It's great when you practice something and then execute it twice within the first 10 minutes," Coudriet said. "Both were phenomenal finishes."

The Lakers were down but not out. They struck back in the 36th minute when junior Omar Cerda centered a pass from the left side in to senior Chase Whitney, who bulged the back of the net with one touch to cut the lead in half.

North Tahoe took advantage of an Incline foul in the box during the final minutes of the half. Senior Lucas Earley converted the penalty kick with a hard shot out of the diving reach of Incline goalie Jose "Chuy" Cordova, and the teams entered the break knotted at 2.

"The boys regrouped and had a good reaction to the two early goals. They were very patient and it paid off," said North Tahoe coach Beto Alcaraz.

The tie was short-lived, however. Nine minutes into the second frame Incline junior Rey Estrada muscled a smaller North Tahoe defender to the turf and, with room to operate, blasted an angled shot past Lingruen. Estrada and Vargas both put fingers over their mouths as they ran back to center field hushing the North Tahoe crowd.

Play remained even the remainder of the contest, with each team missing out on a couple of scoring opportunities.

Just minutes after Incline's go-ahead score, the Lakers had a chance on a one-on-one breakaway, but Earley's shot sailed just over the crossbar. Later in the half, North Tahoe's Harrison Goss crossed a ball to Edgar Delgado, who hit a rocket shot that was blocked by the quick reflexes of Cordova.

Vargas nearly put Incline in front by two goals shortly after, but his free kick from 30 yards rang off the crossbar.

"I thought we played well. It was a physical game. We missed some goals on breakaways, and you can't miss those," Alcaraz said. "Those will come back to haunt you. But it is what it is. Incline is a good team."

With under a minute left to play, Incline sophomore Victor Herrera-Martinez iced the game with a goal from the top of the box.

The referees were well aware of the rivalry and were strict in enforcing the rules. Three players received red cards and were ejected, and a handful of others received yellow cards.

"It's a rivalry. You hope there's not a lot of talking going on out on the field, but there are a lot of emotions," Coudriet said. "But I thought it was a well-reffed game for the most part."

Incline improved to 5-0 in league as the Lakers fell to 4-1.