Carson, Douglas to meet in state semifinals
RENO – It was a big day for Douglas and Carson soccer squads at Saturday’s NIAA 4A regional playoffs.
Douglas edged Galena 2-1 to win its second consecutive regional title, and Carson also secured a spot in the upcoming state playoffs with a 2-1 win over Damonte Ranch in the third-place game.
The reward for the two rivals winning on Saturday? A chance to meet for the third time this season at 6 p.m. Friday at Damonte Ranch High School. Galena will face Pahrump in the other first-round game state game.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Douglas coach Lorraine Fitzhugh said. “I was hoping it would be Carson. It will be electrically charged (playing Carson), and I like that. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully winning.”
Carson coach Randy Roser said he had no preference in terms of a first-round opponent. After losing twice at regionals last year and missing the state playoffs, he’s probably just happy to be in the big dance.
While Douglas dominated in its win, Carson’s victory was decided with less than two minutes to go on a penalty kick by Kenzie Tillitt after Josie Daggs was fouled in the box by Damonte goalkeeper Darby Menghini.
It was a controversial call, and it ended with Damonte’s Sean Canty, a former Carson soccer coach, receiving a red card after protesting the call too vigorously. In fact, the officials held up play until Canty left the fenced-in playing field.
Originally, Natalie Stevens was going to take the penalty kick, according to Roser, but she gave way to Tillitt. The talented junior blasted one into the upper right-hand corner to give Carson its first and only lead of the match.
“I go to the same spot (on the field) no matter what,” Tillitt said. “I could see Natalie wasn’t feeling confident and I had a great feeling (about it).
“We were practicing penalty kicks Friday. We were trying to figure out our lineup if it came to that. I always want to go last. I like the pressure.”
Stevens said she gave up the opportunity because her younger teammate was “more consistent” on PK’s.
Carson was outshot 6-3 in the first half and left the field on the short end of a 1-0 score after Ciara O’Driscoll scored with 13:04 left.
For Tillitt it brought back memories of last year’s third-place game against Galena when Carson trailed 1-0 at the intermission. Carson went on to lose and missed making state. Tillitt didn’t want the same thing to happen again.
“We came out strong (in the second half),” she said. “We started the game off terrible. Everybody was lethargic.”
“Part of the problem is that we have three seniors who are mature, and then we have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores who have that deer-in-the-headlights look and they’re panicked,” Roser said.
Bri McCord tied the game at 1 with a goal in the 50th minute when she used the back of her foot to get it past Menghini after a throw-in by Daggs. It was her second goal of the season.
Douglas played a tremendous first half, playing much of the first 40 minutes on Galena’s side of the field.
Alex Laing gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead when she took a pass from Tia Lyons and beat Galena’s Kenzie Kline in the 11th minute. Fifteen minutes later, Laing scored again to give her team a 2-0 lead.
“The first one, Tia put a perfect pass right on my foot,” Laing said. “On the second one, I was one versus two (Laing against two defenders), I pushed it between her legs, went around her and shot it.”
Douglas enjoyed an 8-0 lead in shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. Galena had couple of runs, but could never get a shot off.
Laing was back in her normal (center) midfield spot after playing some forward earlier.
“She was coming back from a knee injury,” Fitzhugh said, explaining why the move was made. “She has confidence there. It connected our midfield to the rest of the team.
“In zone games you have to be able to move the ball; know how to move the ball.”
And, Fitzhugh said her team did a good job of moving the ball right from the outset. Galena was unable to build any offense from the back, and that’s a problem unless you can catch a break on some through balls. Galena doesn’t have that kind of speed.
The Grizzlies did cut the lead to 2-1 with 23:43 left on a goal by Ally Whitlock.
“That was a mistake on our part,” Fitzhugh said. “The ball ricocheted out from the mouth of the goal, and she put it in. She’s a good player and we were marking her close. I thought one of our defenders should have gotten to the ball.”
Galena’s Sara Lancaster got off a shot with around four minutes left, but it was an easy save. That was the last time the Grizzlies got a good look.