A converted goalkeeper, Chad Love, and a midseason call-up from the junior varsity squad, Chris Bargman, were the unlikely heroes for Douglas High School during its 2-0 win over McQueen in the Northern 4A Zone semifinals on Friday in Minden, propelling the Tigers into today's championship game.
Douglas (15-3-2) will face South Tahoe (16-0-4 in zone play, 21-0-4 overall) today at 1 p.m. at Carson High School for the zone title. With the win over the Lancers (12-2-5), the Tigers also assured themselves a spot in the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Soccer Tournament next week.
Love, a midfielder who became the Tigers' goalkeeper by default this season, made seven saves off Lancer shots to record the shutout. Bargman, who played on the Tiger junior varsity squad for most of the season, had what proved to be the game-winner when he scored the first goal of the game 33 minutes into the first half.
"I think we're starting to come together," said Love, who volunteered to move into the goalie position when the Tigers were searching for someone to fill the void early in the season. "(Goalkeeping) started out being difficult for me, but today it just clicked."
The Douglas offense was clicking early on, with Tiger forward Dylan Sheridan forcing McQueen goalkeeper Chris Facque to make two nice saves. The Tigers came even closer to scoring in the 28th minute when T.J. Plummer's header hit the right post but bounced away for a goal kick.
Bargman finally put the Tigers on the scoreboard five minutes later on a shot which was well-struck but also involved a bit of luck. After a pass from Plummer ended up just inside the penalty box in front of the goal, Bargman fired a shot that deflected off a McQueen defender's backside and rolled straight into the right side of the net, leaving Facque flat-footed and without a chance to stop the ball.
Bargman said he had stuck to the basics when taking the shot, never imagining the ball would end up in the back of the net off a deflection.
"I just tried to shoot on goal and keep the ball down," Bargman said.
Douglas coach Philip Sheridan was glad to see the Tigers catch a break.
"We haven't had many lucky bounces this season," Sheridan said. "We've had to scratch and earn every win."
Douglas would also catch a break late in the first half when Kevin Gardner took a long pass from Plummer and scored with just seven seconds remaining on the scoreboard clock. Plummer's pass from midfield to Gardner at the upper right of penalty box forced Facque out of his net to try to stop the play, but Gardner slipped the ball past the sprawling goaltender and into the net.
In the second half, McQueen was able to put several shots on the Douglas goal, but Love was always in position to make the save. The defenders who helped Love record the shutout were Zach Beres, Adam Sheldon, Caleb Currence and Nick Hernandez.
The player who came closest to scoring in the second half was actually Douglas' Rob Honer, who hit the right post on a lofting shot during injury time.
Douglas last won a Northern 4A Zone title in 1997. If the Tigers can defeat the Vikings today, it will be their third title in four years, as they also won in 1996.
South Tahoe 2, Reed 0
At Carson High in the other boys semifinal, Dave Brown had a goal in the first half and Evan Baker had a score in the second half to help the Vikings reach today's zone championship.
South Tahoe has not been beaten in 25 games (21-0-4 overall this season). Reed finished its season with an 11-5-3 record.