If South Tahoe High School's boys go on to win the state 4A soccer title today, the nickname Vikings fans gave sophomore keeper Peter Chiarpotti - "MVPete" - may stick.
Chiarpotti withstood 23 shots - making 16 saves - from Bishop Gorman in the second half of Friday's state semifinal as the Vikings pulled off a 1-0 win over the Gaels. Both teams entered the match at Carson High School undefeated, and South Tahoe stayed unbeaten on an early goal from senior forward Miguel Jimenez. South Tahoe left with a 28-0-4 record, while the Gaels dropped to 16-1-1.
"I'm just so excited right now, I can't even talk," said Chiarpotti, who helped stop Douglas in the Nov. 5 zone semifinals with a key save in penalty kicks. "I've never been tested this much, ever in my life. I feel like this is the best game of my goalie career."
Chiarpotti stopped most of Bishop Gorman's chances off corner kicks and on breakaways cold, and on the few occasions when he bobbled a shot, defenders William Aguilar, Jon McKean, Ryan Daugherty and Paul Wilson made the plays that kept the Gaels out of the goal. Wilson headed out one high shot in front of an empty box late in the second half, and the line made another miraculous clear on a rebound after Chiarpotti left the box to make another save.
"My team played great against a team that was a lot like us," Chiarpotti said." They started off, better, but I think we had more endurance."
South Tahoe overcame a sluggish start after Jimenez scored. The goal also shifted the momentum toward the Vikings.
"All I saw was Evan (Baker) give me a pass," Jimenez said "I reached out to take a shot, and thank God I made it."
Jimenez also had South Tahoe's regulation goal in the semifinals against Douglas. That score first a 1-1 regulation tie, and South Tahoe went on to win 4-3 in penalty kicks after four overtimes. Friday's game was nearly as close, thanks to relentless pressure from Jared Starbird and Sam Mirkovich.
"I think we dominated the game, we just couldn't put the ball in the net," said Bishop Gorman head coach Victor Arbelaez, whose Gaels received mention in the NSCCAA/Adidas high school soccer top 25 rankings this week. "We just made one mistake, and it cost us.
"I guess it wasn't meant to be," he said.
Friday's action set up today's state final between South Tahoe and Sunset Region champ Green Valley, which advanced with a 2-1 win over Douglas. The Vikings have advanced farther than they ever have in the state tournament, and can take home their first boys soccer championship with a win today. Carson (1994 and 1998) is the only Northern school to win Nevada's state large schools soccer championship.
"Sometimes, one goal is going to hold up," said South Tahoe head coach Joe Winters. "Sometimes, you've got to do what you've got to do to hold the other team out of the net.
"It's not always pretty, but sometimes, it gets it done," he said.