Truckee falls 1 goal short in state final
Injuries. Penalty kicks. Player ejections.
Combined with some lapses on defense, it all proved to be too much for the Tahoe-Truckee High School boys’ soccer team to overcome Saturday at Douglas High School in Minden, as the Wolverines dropped the state championship game to North Tahoe High School, 3-2.
“We made mental mistakes that we couldn’t afford to make,” said Truckee coach Larry Leatherman following the game. “North Tahoe won because they made fewer mistakes.”
The worst mistake during the game may have been made by the games’ officials rather than a Truckee player, as they called Wolverine defender Mark Lopez for an intentional hand ball inside the penalty area as time ran out in the first half.
The infraction, which Lopez said was unintentional, resulted in a penalty kick that gave North Tahoe a 3-2 lead and forced Truckee to play with only 10 men for the remainder of the game, as Lopez was ejected from the game with a red card.
“It was a reflex action,” Lopez said. “I didn’t intend to hit the ball.”
Leatherman said whether the hand ball was intentional was a “judgment call” that he couldn’t argue.
“They made the same call in the girls’ game, so I think they had to be consistent,” Leatherman said. “I don’t think any of our players questioned the call.”
The penalty kick by North Tahoe ended a wide-open first half, which Truckee dominated for the first 15 minutes of the game. The Wolverines had taken an early lead in the ninth minute on a shot by Tom Hernandez.
“For the first 15 minutes, I thought we controlled the game,” Leatherman said. “But then we began to make defensive errors, such as failing to clear their corner kicks and shots. Our defense broke down several times and they were able to dribble through, especially on quick transitions.”
The Lakers tied the game 1-1 on a goal by Dustin Kosek and then took the lead about 20 minutes into the half on a score by Wil Wilford, who was able to slide the ball past charging Wolverine goalie Erik Jitloff.
Truckee tied the score at 2-2 at the 30-minute mark when Taylor Greene headed a loose ball to Jim Leatherman for an easy goal which had bounced over the Laker goaltender’s head.
But quickly after recording the goal, Hernandez, one of Truckee’s top scoring threats, had to be removed from the game because of an injury. Hernandez, who would fail to return to the game in the second half, wasn’t the only Wolverine player affected by injury, as Jim Leatherman also missed a substantial period of time in the second half with an injury.
Down by a goal – and a player – in the second half , everything seemed to be going against the Wolverines – until a fierce wind developed with about 20 minutes remaining. The wind was at Truckee’s back and allowed the Wolverines to apply near constant pressure on the Laker goal.
“The wind came up and we were able to use it to our advantage,” Leatherman said. “We were able to take control even though we were a man down.”
Several Wolverines, including Gannon Sutter, Wes Thelen, Kyle Barth and Greene, came close to tying the game. But the Lakers survived the pressure to hold on to the one-goal lead, preventing Truckee from winning its third-straight state title.
“Toward the end, they were playing just to keep us from scoring,” Leatherman said. “The players were fine with the result following the game – it’s just that we’re not used to losing.”
“Even with one man down, we didn’t let them score in the second half and we fought to the end,” Lopez said. “We had a lot of juniors on the team this year; most will be seniors back on the team next year.”
Early last week, Truckee players thought they would be playing North Tahoe in the state semifinals. But because Spring Creek lost to Battle Mountain on the final day of the 3A league regular season, Truckee faced Spring Creek in the semifinal Friday. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 5-3.
“It was a good team effort against Spring Creek,” Leatherman said. “We outplayed them throughout the game.”
Scoring goals for Truckee against the Spartans were Greene (2), Sutter (2) and Leatherman.
Leatherman said he thought it was a good idea to move the state soccer tournament to Minden from Incline Village, especially when Incline High School was a participant in the playoffs.
“I thought the neutral site was beneficial,” Leatherman said. “It was nice to have the fans come down; it was a great turnout. It was a good idea to come ‘off the hill,’ otherwise we might have been playing in blowing, drifting snow.”
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The Truckee girls’ soccer team remains undefeated, picking up a 5-0 win at home Saturday against Churchill County.