RENO - Carson High's recipe for success this week has been to score early and put it in cruise control the rest of the way.
The Carson girls bolted to an early 2-0 lead in the first 21 minutes against High Desert champion Spanish Springs on the strength of goals by Kenzie Tillitt and Michelle Sandage en route to a 3-0 win in the NIAA Division I Northern Regionals on Thursday night at Damonte Ranch High School.
The win sends the Senators, who scored twice in the first 13 minutes against Reed on Tuesday, into Saturday's regional final at noon against Reno who knocked off Douglas 4-1 in the other semifinal.
"I really thought we'd be playing Douglas," Sandage said after the game. "Reno has come a long way since the start of the season. To see them beat Douglas 4-1 was pretty impressive. We'll be ready to go on Saturday. I thought it was going to be a pretty even game. Once we scored early it was pretty easy for us."
"They (Reno) are a good team," Carson coach Greg Lehman. "Any of the last four teams is going to be good. We're just taking things one game at a time."
Carson jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when Tillitt deked a defender and drilled a shot past keeper Caitlyn Silva. That would be Tillitt's last contribution to the scoreboard for the night. She received a yellow card in the 61st minute and didn't return to the lineup.
Eight minutes later, Sandage scored for the second straight playoff game to make it 2-0.
"Mayra (Olivares) passed it to me," Sandage said. "I dribbled in and then brought it back out. The goalie came out and I slid it past her.
"The early goals by Kenzie and I were huge. It mentally shuts the other team down. After those two scores we pretty much had it in the bag."
Spanish Springs managed just two shots on goal in the opening 40 minutes thanks to the efforts of Shannon Flaherty, Katherine Leist, Alyssa Hayes, Lindy Lehman and Bailee Zuber in the back, and Kiahna Pimental, Sandage and Tillitt in the middle.
"We were very organized on defense tonight," Lehman said. "Our defense was strong tonight."
Spanish Springs' Alyssa Bertaleit had a couple of good looks midway through the second half, but was off target. Karen Corral had a free kick in the second half, but Emmy Heller turned it into an easy save.
In the 73rd minute, Olivares beat the onrushing Silva from 18 yards out to complete the scoring. It was Olivares' second goal in as many games.
"Mayra is finding those opportunities," Lehman said. "The girls came out ready to play tonight and put pressure on them. Those scores helped us settle in."
Lehman hopes his team comes out just as hot on Saturday against Reno.