When opportunity knocked, the North Tahoe High boys soccer team was right there to answer the door Thursday afternoon on its way to a 4-1 season-opening win at Douglas.
Senior Chase Whitney had two goals and one assist while Lucas Earley converted a penalty kick in the final moments before halftime to help lift the Lakers in a nonleague match between young teams.
A goal by Oliver Lopez tied the score 1-1 in the 19th minute, however, the Tigers were unable to sustain their momentum against a North Tahoe squad that was the Division III state tournament runner-up in 2013.
This was just the start in a building process for Douglas, according to Milko Vasquez, who has returned as the program’s head coach after a two-year hiatus.
“We have a lot to work on,” Vasquez said. “We’re young and it showed today.”
The Tigers have eight returnees from a team that went 2-10-4 last season, but only have four seniors. North Tahoe has five seniors on its roster and received contributions from some of its younger players.
“We played well today,” longtime North Tahoe coach Beto Alcaraz said. “For our first official game out, the boys played very well together.”
Whitney’s goal in the 13th minute off an assist from Omar Cerda gave the Lakers a 1-0 lead.
Douglas tied the score six minutes later when Carlos Lopez crossed the ball to the right goalpost and his cousin, Oliver Lopez, took the ball out of the air with a header past the post.
Cerda scored the go-ahead goal for North Tahoe on a follow shot in the 25th minute.
Douglas had an opportunity pull even again two minutes later when Flavio Lopez lined up for a penalty kick, however, North Tahoe sophomore goalkeeper Trent Lingruen went to his right to stop the grounder. Lingruen was making his first start at goalkeeper.
“I think we gave them two easy goals, but we they gave us a couple of opportunities and we didn’t capitalize,” Vasquez said.
North Tahoe extended its lead to 3-1 on a penalty kick at the end of the first half when Earley stroked a grounder into the right corner of the net.
Douglas had three scoring opportunities midway through the second half. One of those was a one-on-one shot by sophomore Josh Gurule, however, Lingruen came out of the net to make the stop. Flavio Lopez also had a breakaway attempt with eight minutes to go that caromed off the right goalpost.
North Tahoe capped its scoring in the 60th minute on Whitney’s second goal, this time assisted by freshman Juan Pablo Herrera.
“You can tell they’re a seasoned team,” Vasquez said of the Lakers. “They go to the state tournament every year.”
North Tahoe lost 3-1 to Incline in the Division III state title game last year.
Vasquez became head coach at Douglas in 2005 and had a 77-50-14 record in six seasons. During that time, the Tigers reached the region championship game three times and twice qualified for the state tournament, including a region title in 2007. The Tigers aren’t at that level just yet, but they’re working to move forward.
“It’s part of a maturation. You’ve got to play the game, and that takes time,” Vasquez said. “The game is the best teacher ... we’ll be all right.”
Lexi Von Schottenstein scored two goals and Sam Crawford scored once as the Douglas girls opened their season Thursday with a 3-0 win against Centennial in Las Vegas. Goalkeeper Corryne Millett was credited with the shutout. The Tigers also beat Boulder City on Friday, 12-0.