Lakers seek return to title-ville
Courtney Firth has yet to see her North Tahoe girls soccer team compete in a league game. But she’s already seen enough to know she inherited a group of winners.
“Every one of the girls has such great heart,” said the first-year coach, a former NAIA All-American at Cal Baptist University (Calif.). “They leave everything on the field, and you can tell that it’s not just for themselves; it’s for each other.
“That’s one of the most important things for a winning team.”
The Lakers have earned plenty of ‘W’s in recent years. With five 3A state titles under their belt and a state runner-up finish in 2007, winning has become a habit of sorts.
Firth hopes this year is no exception, as she and her assistant coaches, Mark Gianetto and Seth Williams, have whipped the girls into shape with early-season conditioning in anticipation of another state title run.
“Our short-term goal fitness-wise is making sure we’re ready for every game. Our long-term goal is to get back to state and take it this year,” Firth said.
Last year the Lakers came about as close as it comes.
Facing rival Truckee in the championship, the Lakers lost a nail biter, 2-1, when Truckee’s Katie Dill scored on a header in the opening minute of overtime.
The loss was tough to deal with, said returning All-Leaguer Christina Lane, now a senior and co-team captain. Despite the heartbreak, Lane said she and her teammates do not harbor feelings of redemption.
“No, not really, because I don’t think there was any way to stop how they scored on us. It was just an amazing header,” Lane said. “But that was last year. We’re ready to move on and hopefully take state.”
Senior forward Sage Clark, the Lakers’ other co-captain, is confident the team can reach that goal.
“We’re looking good, definitely,” she said. “We’ve been conditioning a lot, so we’ll be in shape.”
The skill is there, too, as the Lakers return five of their eight All-League players from a year ago, including Lane and Clark as well as Dani Pranin, Lexey Dalmau-Jones and Carly Leininger.
“We lost some good players, but I think we have good enough girls to fill in all those positions,” said Lane, who’ll likely play center defender, her coach said.
North Tahoe, which opens league play at Truckee on Tuesday, lost three games by a single goal in the Howell Memorial Tournament at Galena this past weekend. Firth said the tournament served as a great opportunity for her to pin down the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Some of those weaknesses include “typical touches on the ball, a little better finishing and a little better communication, both on and off the field,” Firth said.
“We’re a pretty young team, but that works to our benefit, being that it’s my first year as coach,” Firth added. “And as a head coach, I couldn’t have asked for two better assistant coaches. Both have a great grasp on the game, and all three of us have the same intense approach to soccer.”
The new Laker coaches are banking on that approach translating into wins. They’ve got a history of success on their side.
The Lakers kick off league play at Truckee on Tuesday. The girls start at 3 p.m. and the boys at 5 p.m.
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