Incline soccer: Boys rout Yerington for fourth consecutive state title
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — About 10 minutes into the Division III state soccer championship, the Incline boys looked to be making a case as the best team in the land, regardless of classification.
The Highlanders rushed out to a 4-0 lead in the opening 11 minutes Saturday and went on to earn a 7-0 win over Yerington to secure a fourth consecutive state championship.
The state title was No. 7 for Incline, which ranks second in the NIAA record book behind Truckee’s eight and ahead of North Tahoe’s six.
“I think this team had to prove something. I think you have to prove something every year,” second-year Incline coach Michael Coudriet said. “People weren’t thinking we were the same team and that we weren’t as good (as last year). But these guys are the best team, and they showed it today, and they showed it yesterday.”
The true test for the Highlanders came in Friday’s state semifinal against North Tahoe. After the rivals split their two regular-season meetings — with the Lakers winning 2-0 on Oct. 2 and Incline winning 5-0 on Oct. 27 — Incline eked out a 1-0 win with a goal in the 73rd minute.
Senior All-State forward Rey Estrada, playing in his first game of the season after sitting out with a knee injury, scored the Highlanders’ lone goal against the Lakers. He also scored Incline’s first goal against Yerington.
“I feel really emotional. I never thought I would be back,” said Estrada, fighting back tears. “I’m just so happy that I was able to come back and be here for my teammates.”
Added Coudriet: “Rey really just got cleared a week ago to play. He didn’t think he was playing the whole year. But he was with us from Day 1 as a manager and traveled with us. For him to step on the field and score the winner against North Tahoe and the first goal today is just great.”
Yerington was not expected to reach the state final. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, the Lions shocked top-seeded West Wendover with a 1-0 win in double overtime in Friday’s semifinal. Coudriet, who scouted the game, said the Lions used an offside trap that repeatedly caught the Wolverines on their attack.
It didn’t work against the Highlanders.
“I had the luxury of watching Yerington play, so we could develop a strategy, and our guys are coachable; you can tell them what to do and they do it,” Coudriet said. “We had very few offsides compared to what people would expect. I think it caught them by surprise, because Wendover couldn’t break it, but our guys executed perfectly what you should do. They’re adaptable and not a one-dimensional team.”
Time after time, particularly early in the contest, Incline forwards patiently hung back with the Lions’ last defender before running onto a through-ball and outracing their opponent to the goal. While he blocked a number of shot attempts, Yerington goalie Erik Gonzalez was overwhelmed by the onslaught.
The first score, a wide-open blast by Estrada, came just two minutes into the game. Junior Oscar Herrera extended the lead to 2-0 in the sixth minute and scored again just three minutes later for a quick 3-0 Incline lead.
Two minutes after that, junior Fidel Rodriguez beat a defender and sent a cross in to freshman Michael Callejas, who converted the goal to give the Highlanders a 4-0 lead in the 11th minute. Incline added a fifth goal in the 29th minute, put in by junior Christian Rodriguez, and carried the 5-0 lead into the half.
Junior Marc Ramos got in on the scoring action with a goal in the 50th minute, and junior Benji Miranda rounded out the offense with a goal in the final 10 minutes.
“I’m proud of my team. I’m honestly not sad because I know they gave it all they had,” Yerington coach Miguel Sanchez said. “Incline is a better team. They have the experience, and it showed.”
Incline, which entered the state tournament at Highlander Stadium as a No. 2 seed, posted a final record of 15-9 overall and 12-2 against the Division III. The Highlanders are set to lose five seniors to graduation, all of whom talked about the family atmosphere on the team and how much they will miss it.
“I’m going to miss the practices, everybody coming here for Friday night lights. It’s just the most amazing feeling ever,” said senior Fernando Martinez. “I hope this team just keeps winning, and I know they will. We’re always a family. That’s what soccer is all about.”
Added senior Edgar Fragosa: “I’m so proud of my team — my family. We worked our butts off this whole season, no matter what the conditions were, inside or outside, and it made us a family.”
Coudriet, still drying out from a water cooler that was dumped over his head, added to that sentiment.
“I don’t know what it is about this town,” he said, “but even next year, we’re losing five seniors, but we’re going to have an incredible team again. It’s a blessing to coach such amazing guys. Rey coming back and all the seniors, they always talk about being a family, and it shows. You can’t win four state championships if you’re not a family.”