Douglas boys soccer wins zone crown

Of anyone to face off against in the Northern 4A Regional Championship Game, the South Tahoe Vikings were probably the last team in the world the Douglas boys' soccer team would have chosen.

Heading into this year, the defending regional champs had defeated the Tigers 13 consecutive times and ended Douglas' season in the semifinals during the past two years.

That didn't matter much Saturday afternoon as the Tigers claimed their first regional championship since 1998 with a 1-0 win over the Vikings at Damonte Ranch High School.

"I've never been here, but to do this against South Tahoe, it's pretty special," said Douglas midfielder Eddie Vega, who scored the game-winning goal in the 38th minute. "We had 13 straight losses against them coming into this year, but we beat them twice this year and tie them at home.

"It feels good. We had some good games. Hopefully next week we'll keep it up. We could end up seeing them again at state, and that would be tough."

The regional title game came down to bragging rights and seeding as both schools had advanced to next week's state tournament, also at Damonte Ranch, with wins in the semifinals.

Tahoe held the advantage in possession, scoring opportunities and total shots throughout the game, but Douglas made the best of its chances and played enough scrappy defense to pick up the win.

Tahoe held a 6-3 advantage in shots in the first half, but Douglas started pressuring with about five minutes remaining until the break.

Midfielder Edgar Arceo got a ball through to the right side, where Vega was waiting unmarked. He received the ball, positioned himself and sent it to the far post for the goal. It was one of only four shots on goal for the Tigers in the game.

"Wasn't that a beautiful shot?" Douglas coach Milko Vasquez said. "That boy can shoot. He's not just a talented young man, he understands the game.

"He can go places, he is that special of a player. I'm not just talking about college. If he applies himself, don't be surprised if you see him on television in a pro jersey some day.

"Edgar Arceo had a big game too. He is normally a scorer, but he had to sacrifice that and play in the midfield for us. He did a really good job, he was composed, he didn't commit fouls."

South Tahoe again won the shots battle in the second half, this time 5-1, but goalkeeper Jose Alcaraz came up with brilliant save after brilliant save.

His most impressive stop came in the 54th minute when South Tahoe got a sharp shot off from 15 yards out and he initially misplayed it to his right. With the ball headed for the upper corner, Alcaraz vaulted into the air and made an acrobatic diving stop to preserve the shutout.

"He kept us in line back there," Vasquez said. "He kept his composure and the defense played well enough to get the win.

"Jose is probably our best defender, but because of the circumstances this season, he had to move into the net. When it comes to the playoffs, it's always a one-goal game. It's always 1-0, 2-1, something like that, so having a presence like Jose is so important."

Vasquez also noted the play of defenders Kyle Gardner and Geoff Rahe, both of whom came up with a number of key stops down the stretch and outside midfielder Andrew Andraski who kept the Vikings' wings in check.

"Andrew was very good on the outside today," Vasquez said. "He was tenacious and that was critical."

Brian Randall and Ray Kaffer also played big roles on the defensive end.

Douglas subbed liberally thoughout the game, a practice the Tigers employed during every playoff game, and the subs created some of the Tigers best chances in the second half.

Dutch exchange student Antoine VandenBulke had the Tigers' first big chance of the second half as he got behind the Viking defense after a long clear in the 66th minute. He possessed the ball about 25 yards away from the net, but was pushed down from behind on the play. No foul was called.

South Tahoe drew Alcaraz out in the 71st minute and played the ball to the far post on an open net, but the shot sailed wide.

Three minutes later, Douglas' Alan Ackerman sent a through ball to forward Dustin Goldade in front of the net, but Goldade sent it just high.

"We were down to 16 guys total, so it was nice to see some of the underclassmen come up and get some quality minutes today," Vasquez said.

South Tahoe continued to pressure up until the final whistle, but once it blew, the Douglas bench erupted onto the field.

"I couldn't believe it," Vega said. "That's what we worked for all season and today it all came together. All the hard practices and everything. Everybody tried hard and it was just a great feeling."

Vasquez echoed Vega's sentiments.

"The kids worked hard for so many years together," Vasquez said. "The obstacles the had to overcome, with a couple of big injuries, they kept their focus through it all. What can I say?"


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