Incline soccer: Girls play Warriors to 2-2 draw
Incline will host North Tahoe on Tuesday — girls at 5 p.m. and boys at 7.
ZEPHYR COVE — In the second meeting between the Whittell and Incline girls soccer teams, the reigning Division III state finalists again couldn’t be separated. The Warriors and Highlanders played to a 2-2 draw this past Thursday, leaving the chase for the title wide open.
“Both teams are going to walk away thinking we could have won the game,” Incline coach Tom Canino said. “We feel that way, and I have no doubt they feel the same way on the other side.”
Whittell (10-1-2 league) jumped out to a two-goal lead shortly after the opening kickoff and had a 2-1 lead at halftime. In the second half, Incline (9-1-2) controlled play and eventually evened the match in the 73rd minute with a 25-yard blast from Madison Wallner.
“We know that we’re better than this,” Whittell coach David Caputo said. “When we can finally come to a game and play for the full 80 minutes, I don’t think there’s a team that can stop us — but we can’t pick and choose when we want to play.”
The Warriors raced out to a 2-0 lead just four minutes into the match. An own goal put the hosts on the board in the second minute, and two minutes later Ali Copsy found the back of the net to give Whittell a two-goal advantage.
“We came off on fire and ready to go,” Caputo said. “But 2-0 is the worst score to be up in soccer — we had to play with the hunger and intensity to make them feel like they couldn’t come back.”
In the 10th minute, Incline used a set piece to pull back within a goal. Highlanders defender Sami Lampe sent a free kick into the box that glanced off the head of Whittell defender Daria Sharon and into the net — the own goal made it 2-1.
Whittell held that one-goal lead at halftime following a fast, physical first half. After the break, Incline controlled play — the Highlanders played mostly in the Warriors’ half but couldn’t convert a handful of scoring chances.
Incline dialed up the pressure as the second half wound down, and eventually pulled even with less than 10 minutes to play. Wallner had space outside the 18-yard box and fired a shot that went over the outstretched arms of Whittell goalkeeper Genesis Alvarez and into the top right corner of the net.
“We had a lot of chances in the second half, and missing the goal was the difference between us winning and having a tie in this game,” Canino said. “We finally hit the frame, and that’s what we were missing most of the time. We had to find the frame.”
After tying the match, Incline had four more scoring chances but couldn’t break the deadlock. The Highlanders’ best chance came from close range in the 78th minute — but Alvarez slid out to save the shot with her knees and preserve the tie.
“We’re very evenly matched,” Canino said. “It just comes down to the effort and the play — at any given moment in the game, it can go either way.”
Whittell had a chance to secure the league championship with a win over Incline, and the second draw between the teams muddles the title chase. The Warriors are in first place with one game left, a point ahead of second-place North Tahoe (10-1-1) and two points up on third-place Incline — the Lakers and Highlanders each have two matches left.
Incline is set to host North Tahoe in a key league game on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“If things weren’t cloudy enough already, it’s going to be even cloudier,” Canino said.
Incline’s boys rolled to an easy 10-0 victory over the Warriors on Thursday. The Highlanders then defeated Yerington 4-2 on Saturday to improve to 9-2 in league entering the rival game against North Tahoe on Tuesday.
— Bonanza Sports Editor Sylas Wright contributed to this story.