Lakers soccer wins big in Vegas, takes state championship
LAS VEGAS ” Under gray skies and through cold winter air, North Tahoe tied up its overall season record against its arch rival, defeating Truckee 2-0 on Saturday to bring the program’s sixth state championship home to Dollar Hill.
Truckee beat North Tahoe 3-1 on Dollar Hill early in the season, then North Tahoe took down the Wolverines 4-0 at Surprise Stadium at the close of regular season and Truckee won the Northern Nevada championship in Winnemucca by beating the Lakers 3-1. The final game tied things up at two wins each on the season.
But as North Tahoe head coach Beto Alcaraz said between shivers after being doused with water following the final victory, the Lakers won the games they needed to, including the final game of the regular season to take first place in the Northern 3A Sierra League, and then the state final on Saturday.
The fourth win was by no means lopsided or a blowout, as the Wolverines battled with their normal intensity and gave North Tahoe fans and anyone who appreciates great competition a championship-worthy show.
The action started off about 10 minutes into the match, with a rocket of a shot by the Lakers’ David Munoz from the edge of the 18-yard box. After a poor clearance by Truckee’s defense, Munoz one-timed the ball on a line directly into the upper right corner of the Wolverine net to put the Lakers up by one.
Possession went back and forth for the remaining 30 minutes of play, with tackles laid down and chances created on both sides.
The advantage, if there was one, would have had to go to Truckee, as the Wolverine attack fronted mostly by forwards Max Brixey and Al Virrey pounded on the North Tahoe back half, forcing inspired play from sweeper Ricardo Cervantes and impromptu defender Fernando Cervantes.
Laker goalkeeper Michele Basile came up huge time and time again to shut down quality shots from the Truckee side during the remainder of the first half and majority of the second.
One such instance found Basile rushing out to shut down a breakaway by Virrey, which ended in Virrey being carted off the field after taking a harsh beating, and then having Basile land on his head through the collision.
The battle raged on until the final whistle, but the back-breaker for Truckee came when lone Laker senior Paco Delgado found himself unmarked on the 6-yard box and headed in a corner kick to seal the deal at 2-0.
A disappointed Wolverine head coach Hernan Valdivia put the championship match into perspective after the game.
“It was heated for sure,” Valdivia said. “No one was backing down. When you get to this point in the season, it’s not about skill, it’s about who wants it more.”
Valdivia pointed to two mental errors around the goal as the difference in the game.
“It’s going to come down to mental mistakes,” Valdivia said.
North Tahoe manager Beto Alcaraz said his side focused on game strategy, and said that was the difference in the final.
Alcaraz had his boys up and in a meeting at 7:30 a.m. to discuss strategy and game plan.
According to Alcaraz, his Lakers switched up their focus based on the long-ball game Truckee played in the Northern Nevada regional final ” the long-ball game that the Lakers could not adjust to in the Winnemucca final.
This time, Alcaraz said, his boys were prepared for either style Truckee had shown during the season, and they were prepared to adjust.
“We were ready for anything,” Alcaraz said.
Delgado said that his team played as a unit and as a team, and that was its strength.
Delgado didn’t, however, give credit to his and his teammates’ bleached-blond Mohawk hair styles as keys in the victory. He said that was more of a fashion statement for the big game.
“It’s a new look,” Delgado said.
For Truckee senior midfielder Cole Froelich, who was sporting corn rows for the occasion and had a showing to be proud of in his last high school game, things were slightly more simple.
“They put two in the net,” Froelich said. “We didn’t.”
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.