First-place is the only place to be as far as the South Tahoe High boys soccer team is concerned.
The Vikings, who have won back-to-back Sierra League championships and three of the last four, took over sole possession of first-place with a convincing 5-0 victory against Carson in a showdown between unbeaten teams on Saturday.
Leon Abravanel scored three goals, two on direct free kicks, and assisted on another to help the Vikings (8-0-1 overall, 3-0 league) defeat the Senators (4-1-2, 2-1) on a warm afternoon at Carson.
The Vikings were coming off an important 1-0 win against Douglas on Wednesday that was too close for comfort, and they didn't want a repeat performance, according to coach Joe Winters.
"We got a little shook up against Douglas," Winters said. "We didn't quite play together and we got a little frustrated, but today the guys came together. We knew Carson was undefeated in league and we knew if we didn't win this game, we would be in second, so there was a lot to play for today."
South Tahoe returns several veterans from a team that won the Northern 4A Regional Tournament last year. Among the returnees are Abravanel, who was Sierra League Midfielder of the Year in 2002, and Tim Head, who was the league's Defensive Player of the Year.
"Basically, they're the same team; they're the champs right now and the team to beat," Carson coach Jim Nealis said. "We know now what we have to do as far as playing with the best in the area and we have a lot of work to do.
"We didn't catch many breaks today, but we can't make any excuses. What happened, happened. We just need to learn from this and go on."
South Tahoe caught a break in the 22nd minute on a long throw-in from Alex Torres. Goalkeeper Robbie Liebherr came out, but uncharacteristically, the ball skipped past him and right to Abravanel, who simply headed the ball into an open net for a 1-0 lead.
The Vikings extended their lead to 2-0 in the final moments before halftime when Abravanel blasted a direct kick from the top of the box high into the net.
"He's been working on that free kick," Winters said of Abravanel. "Today is probably the most success he's had and it was a great game to pull it out on because that helped get us going.
"He had a great game. We need him to be our play maker, not necessarily our goal scorer. He hustles and he does a lot of great things. He's just a phenomenal player."
Victor Mariscal scored off a cross from Abravanel in the 66th minute. Alex Yure scored on a 25-yard shot from the right side to make it 4-0. And Abravanel converted his second direct kick, a high shot that curved inside the goalpost and into the right corner of the net.
South Tahoe's control of the game was evident on the shot chart. The Vikings had 22 shots on goal in the contest, as opposed to five by the Senators.
"Our defense played great today. Carson put a lot of pressure; their goalie has a great punt, he can punt it 60, 70 yards, so our defense had to do a good job of keeping the ball out of the box," Winters said.
Head turned in a strong performance from his sweeper position, according to the coach.
"They had a couple of great opportunities. They had open shots but Tim just got there and closed them down," Winters said.
Liebherr finished with 10 saves, including one stop of a penalty kick late by Torres with 14 minutes left in the first half.
"We came out ready to play," Winters said. "The game was a little more physical than we would have liked to have seen it. But there's a lot of rivalry there between Carson and ourselves and the boys had a lot of pumped up adrenaline going.
"It was a good game. Carson played hard, our guys played hard, too. We got a few more opportunities than they did and we were fortunate to be able to capitalize on it."
The two teams will meet again on Oct. 18 at South Tahoe.
"We all played below our ability today," Nealis said. "We can't harp on it. We'll see them again. We still have to face Douglas and Reno twice and we have North Valleys one more time, so we have a lot of other big games ahead of us."
Carson's boys host Tahoe-TruckeeMonday at 3:30 p.m. in a nonleague game.
Douglas 8, Hug 1
Chris Honer scored five goals to help the Tigers (5-3-1, 2-1) win their Sierra League game at Hug.
Justin Grimm scored off an assist from Chase Cohee in the 17th minute to give Douglas a 1-0 lead. Honer scored in the 24th minute, assisted by Colten Mellows, then scored off an assist from Myles DeLaurentis. Alex Haas punched in a direct kick to make it 4-0 before halftime.
Honer scored three goals during a 16-minute span early in the second half, the second of which was assisted by Jarryd Herwill. Chase Zumpft, who started the game at goalkeeper, came out on the field late and scored with an assist from Haas.
Zumpft was credited with four saves in his fourth shutout outing of the season. Steve Done finished up in the net and had one save. Marking fullback Jeff Spencer turned in a solid performance, according to coach Phil Sheridan.