North Tahoe soccer: Girls claim first state title in 10 years
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It was only a matter of time before the state soccer crown returned to Dollar Hill.
North Tahoe — one of the most historically successful soccer programs in the state — regained its championship form on Saturday, as the top-seeded Laker girls powered out of the season with a 3-1 comeback win over Whittell in the Division III state final at Incline.
“We had an amazing season, and we came out ready to win today,” said North Tahoe senior forward Bryn Anderson, who put the finishing touch on the victory with an insurance goal in the 77th minute. “From the moment we played our first game, we knew this is what we wanted, and we delivered.”
The title ended a 10-year drought for the North Tahoe girls, who last won state consecutively from 2003 to 2005. The Lakers had many winning seasons in between, only to finish short of their goal in the postseason.
This year was different.
“I think this year we just had a greater team chemistry, and we had more of a feeling that we knew we could do it,” said senior Mallory Tyler. “We worked harder than ever and had the mindset that we could pull it off.”
Senior Valencia Covell agreed: “I think this year we had a better, positive attitude and the (eight) seniors have all played together for a very long time, and we pulled through this year. Everybody worked hard.”
The Lakers posted a final record of 16-3-2 overall and 13-1-2 against the Division III. Their only losses outside of league came against Division I Douglas and Division I-A Truckee, while Whittell was the only DIII team to defeat North Tahoe during the regular season — albeit without Anderson.
The latest state championship marks No. 6 for the North Tahoe girls, which ranks second in the NIAA record book to Truckee’s eight.
The defending state champion Warriors did not make it easy.
Whittell, which entered as the No. 2 seed in the state tournament and knocked off third-seeded Incline, 3-2, in the semifinal round, drew first blood just five minutes into the title game. Sophomore Kallie Nelson lifted a high-arcing shot from 40 yards that sailed over the outstretched reach of North Tahoe goalie Rosii Barrera.
North Tahoe went back to work and evened the score in the 28th minute. Tyler sent a ball to the front of the goal that was cleared by the Whittell defense, but right to freshman AJ Hurt, who hit a one-touch blast out of the air and just inside the left post from 20 yards away.
The teams went to half knotted at 1-1.
Sixteen minutes into the second frame, Anderson delivered a corner kick to the far post, and Covell bumped it into the goal with her midsection from point-blank range — in similar fashion to her goal in the Lakers’ 3-0 win over White Pine in the state semifinal.
“I mean, if I tried to use my foot it wouldn’t have gone in, so just however I could do it, I did it,” Covell said.
The game remained tightly contested and physical throughout the half, with both teams narrowly misfiring on a couple of occasions. A shot attempt by Whittell junior Madison Idso sailed just wide of the goal in the 69th minute, as did an attempt by Anderson in the 72nd minute.
Anderson finally broke through with the game-clinching score with three minutes remaining. She did so with her signature move — dribbling to her left and then firing a hard left-footed shot across her body.
“I honestly don’t even remember what happened. I just wanted to score so bad, and I turned and shot, and I’m just glad it went in,” said Anderson, who tallied a league-high 61 points during the regular season, including 38 goals, and was voted Co-Offensive MVP by Division III coaches.
Second-year North Tahoe coach Stephanie Bales agreed with her seniors that the Lakers played as a more cohesive unit this season than last, when they lost to Incline in the state semifinal.
“I think the girls this season just played with so much heart, and we were a team the whole season, always working together. I think we just showed how it is to have really good teamwork and never give up,” said Bales, who was voted Coach of the Year. “The girls fought so hard to come back and got three goals in. So I could not be more proud of them.”
All of the seniors expressed sentiment about how much they’ll miss North Tahoe soccer.
“I’m going to miss my teammates and all the trips that we go on, and just how much fun we have every day,” said senior co-captain Emma DesLauriers.
Added Anderson: “We had an amazing time the last four years. I can’t believe it’s over, but I’m happy it ended this way.”
The Lakers also excelled in the classroom. Before the start of the title game, they were awarded the academic state championship for achieving the lowest collective GPA in the division, at 3.6.