Lakers set lofty goal |

Lakers set lofty goal

Alex Close/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe boys soccer coach Bert Alcaraz teaches his players a technical, advanced style of play at practice this week.

The North Tahoe boys soccer team has a goal this year.

It is not to be league champs. It is not to make the state tournament. It is not even to make it to the state final.

It is to win the state title.

After letting last year’s semifinal slip away to Pahrump Valley, North Tahoe has a bitter taste in its mouth.

According to head coach Bert Alcaraz, there are two things that will help the Lakers achieve their goal.

The first is versatility. Alcaraz has a team full of talented players that can play anywhere on the field. They know the role of each position and can fill it well.

Alcaraz’s primary example was his team’s sweeper, the anchor of the field, senior Ricardo Cervantes.

Cervantes spent his previous seasons in a North Tahoe jersey playing midfield and forward. Alcaraz said he approached Cervantes and told him the team needed a sweeper.

The senior stepped up.

He isn’t the only one, either. Alcaraz said that 90 percent of his team can play different positions.

“As a coach, I’m very pleased that they’re willing to play wherever I need them to play,” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz said that in addition to versatility, the trust amongst his players will be key in the team’s success.

Alcaraz has cited team chemistry as a key to success of his teams for years, and this year is no different. He said that his players won’t get down on each other but will be supportive ” something very important in big games and do-or-die situations, he said.

While Alcaraz did lose some key players last year, he has a strong core of footballers as well as a solid team to support them.

With seniors Michele Basile in the goal, Cervantes at sweeper, Eric Holman in the middle of the park and Paco Delgado up front, the backbone of the team runs right through the center of the field from goal to goal.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Alcaraz said. “They’re all going to need the supporting roles of the rest of the players.”

The style that North Tahoe plays is also key to the success of the team.

Alcaraz’s style of play favors ball movement and one- or two-touch passing, which swings the ball all around the field, forcing opponents out of place and creating space where the Lakers can exploit it.

Alcaraz said that to hone this Brazilian type style, he will restrict his players to limited touches during practices and before they know it, one- and two-touch passing play becomes second nature.

“The boys get used to it,” Alcaraz said. “Soon they don’t realize they’re playing one touch.”

The methods are evident on the field. The ball swings around the pitch, up and back. When the Lakers are on their game, opponents chase but can’t keep up, leaving gaps in more vulnerable places.

While Alcaraz claims that other teams will be his team’s biggest hurdle, he also acknowledges that his team will be its own biggest enemy.

“Our major concern is ourselves,” Alcaraz said.

This is also evident on the field. Perhaps North Tahoe’s biggest roadblock is it’s occasional hesitance to pull the trigger around the goal.

Just as they did in last year’s semifinal, the Lakers have a tendency to hold back shots, allowing opponents to stay in games they don’t deserve to be in.

However, the good news for Laker fans is that when North Tahoe sees red, opponents see bulges in their nets.

When a player like Delgado gets hungry and partners up with runners like Holman to play the ball off of virtually every player in a blue and white kit, opposing defenses have a hard time keeping up.

That’s why Alcaraz doesn’t know much about the teams he’s playing. He doesn’t have to. He knows that it’s his game, the game his boys can and do play, that must be adapted to and, when it’s on, feared.

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