North Tahoe soccer preview | Boys return strong team in 2012 |

North Tahoe soccer preview | Boys return strong team in 2012

File photoNorth Tahoe senior Riley McCarthy, who is among the Lakers' top returning players, fires a shot against Dayton last year.

Several years have passed since Beto Alcaraz was this excited about one of his North Tahoe soccer teams.

The longtime coach, whose Laker boys have won six state championships and#8212; second-most in Nevada history and#8212; will look to return to his old championship form with an experienced, more polished group of upperclassmen.

and#8220;I think we’re looking a lot better than last year. We’re playing well, we’re passing well. The team is coming along really nicely,and#8221; Alcaraz said. and#8220;Even though we have lost three games so far, we have been playing well. I’m really happy with the way the boys are playing.and#8221;

The Lakers are off to a 1-3 start after playing an ambitious preseason scheduled against larger California programs, including Nevada Union and Colfax. Their win came against Placer, 3-1.

and#8220;We’re playing just great,and#8221; said Alcaraz, who has yet to finalize his roster.

Key returners from last year include senior captains Riley McCarthy, Nico Monforte and Francisco Medina, as well as seniors Trevor Semmens and Danny Garcia and junior Eduardo Martinez. Junior Jose Chavez returns at goalie.

Alcaraz expects much of the offense to come from forwards Semmens, Garcia and Martinez, while Medina will carry the burden of replacing All-State sweeper Felipe Rodriguez.

and#8220;Francisco has to step up, not only with his play, but with his leadership as well,and#8221; Alcaraz said. and#8220;That’s why I also made him a captain.and#8221;

With the exception of four graduated seniors, the North Tahoe squad includes many of the same players as last year, but with surprisingly improved skills, Alcaraz said and#8212; and the coach isn’t quite sure just how. Perhaps just the extra year of maturity and growth made all the difference.

and#8220;I think that’s part of it,and#8221; Alcaraz said, and#8220;and the fact that we’re practicing more on passing and trapping the ball, more technical skills. But I think the technical skills are better this year. The kids have stepped it up. I don’t know if they worked in the summer or just woke up and realized they needed to be more technically skilled to compete in varsity soccer.and#8221;

Either way, the Lakers will look to contend for their first title since 2006 when Mount Rose League play rolls around next week, starting with a tough road game at two-time defending champion Sparks on Tuesday. They host a Division III (formerly 2A) crossover tournament this weekend against the Ruby Mountain League and#8212; teams from Battle Mountain, West Wendover and White Pine that Alcaraz hopes to handle in preparation for their larger Division I-A (formerly 3A) foes.

There has been talk of the NIAA including a separate small-schools state championship as soon as this fall, as opposed to lumping the Division III programs in with the Division I-A. Normally, a decision would have been made by now, but back in June it was unclear whether enough soccer programs existed among the small schools to support separate playoffs. Nine is the minimum number of teams needed.

The decision could easily go either way at this point, according to NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson.

and#8220;I’d say it’s fifty-fifty,and#8221; Nelson said. and#8220;The reason why I think it would (split) is because I think we can justify that there are nine full teams in both the boys and the girls, but it’s pushing it. There are a couple programs that are hanging by a thread.

and#8220;The reason why I think it may not pass, if you look at the other 50 percent, is because it wasn’t approved in June and we’re already in the season.and#8221;

Alcaraz said he’s opposed to the idea of having a separate championship, as he’d rather his teams face the better competition of the Division I-A and#8212; the division in which the Lakers have won six state titles.

and#8220;I would like to stay and compete the way we are right now, because the competition is a lot better. I’m not saying the 2A schools are not good soccer programs, but in my opinion, they should leave it the way it is. It’s like I tell my players, to be the best you have to play the best,and#8221; Alcaraz said.

and#8212; Tahoe Daily Tribune sports editor Becky Regan contributed to this report.

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