It's quite likely that Chris Kircher will always have fond memories of Carson City.
For the second time in three years, the capital was the site of a championship celebration for Kircher and his Green Valley High School teammates, this time because of a 1-0 victory against South Tahoe in the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Tournament finals at Carson High School.
Tyson Miller's goal in the 27th minute was the difference as Green Valley (18-1-2) handed South Tahoe its first defeat of the season in a hard-fought defensive struggle between Southern and Northern region champions.
The scoring play came off a Josh Terry corner kick that struck the crossbar and caromed into a crowd of players - and off Kircher's head. Ironically, the play wasn't altogether different from two years ago, when Kircher's shot struck the crossbar and the ball was then redirected into the net to give Green Valley a 1-0 state championship game victory against Cheyenne.
"It was almost the exact same thing," said Kircher, a senior midfielder. "Same field, same bench. This city's been good for us."
The scoring play wasn't pretty. Miller simply got enough of his foot on the ball to put it in the net.
"The ball was bouncing around," Miller recalled. "The ball hit Chris Kircher's head and when it came down I just ran into it."
However, the real difference truly was a Green Valley defense that limited South Tahoe to seven shots on goal while sophomore goalkeeper Chris Ancell only needed to make three saves to log his 13th shutout of the season. All three of Ancell's saves came in the second half, one on a shot he tipped over the net with 10 minutes remaining and another on Carlos Davila's open shot on goal with four minutes to go.
"It was a tough game; they were a tough team," Kircher said of the Vikings. "They kept pressuring us all the way. The last 10 minutes, they played with a lot of pride, but we were able to pull it off."
For South Tahoe (28-1-4), the loss represented a disappointing finish to a successful season.
"The kids are obviously disappointed about losing, but this was our only loss of the season," South Tahoe coach Joe Winters said. "I thought we showed well in the tournament here - we gave up one goal in two games - I'm proud of them."
"We played as hard as we can. Usually that's good enough for us to win, this time we didn't," senior forward Andrew Butcher added.
Even though Green Valley was not one of the South's preseason favorites coming into this season, the Gators never doubted themselves.
"A lot of people counted us out before the season because this was my first year, but we knew how good we were." Green Valley coach Ken Goettsche said.
"I knew coming into the season we'd have a pretty good team," Miller added. "Everybody played together and with a lot of heart."
That was evident during the postseason, because the Gators finished with four straight one-goal victories. Three of those games were decided by 1-0 scores (one in overtime) and Friday's state semifinal was a 2-1 triumph against Douglas.
"Our team motto is 'Refuse to lose,'" Kircher said. "When we needed a goal or when we needed a stop, and we always seemed to get it."