Carson High School is looking to defend its Northern 4A zone girls soccer tournament championship. Douglas and Galena, both looking to win zone for the first time, would both like to take care of some unfinished business.
Stay tuned because each of the three Carson Country teams, along with five others, would love nothing more than to take care of business in three straight games and win a wide-open zone tournament that kicks off this afternoon and continues through the finals Saturday in Carson City.
Douglas, the No. 1 seed from Division II after going through the regular season 16-1-1, hosts Sparks at 2 p.m. in Minden. Carson, (13-3-2) the second-place team from Division II, is at home for a 2 p.m. test at the high school against Elko. Galena, (11-4-2) the No. 2 seed from Division I, hosts Reno in another 2 p.m. match. In the fourth opening round match, Division I champion Reed (12-1-4) entertains South Tahoe at 5 p.m.
If recent history holds true to form, the games this week will be close and low scoring - five games in last year's tournament were decided by 1-0 scores - and look for some surprises along the way. A case in point would be last year's zone final in which Division II champ Carson defeated No. 3 seed Reed, 1-0, in a penalty kick shoot-out.
"We're down to the time of year where none of that other stuff matters anymore. What matters is playing well now," Galena coach Tom Canino said. "We're down to the teams that can all play. You have to try to capitalize on your strengths and try to prevent anyone from getting to your weaknesses."
Douglas comes in with 16 wins, equaling the school single season record. Then again, coach Fred Schmidt well remembers what happened last November, when the undefeated Tigers lost at home in the first round to Reed 1-0 on penalty kicks.
"I think we're ready, the kids are real focused," Schmidt said. "There's not a lot of dwelling on the division title. They feel there's a lot of unfinished business to take care of."
For that reason, the Tigers won't be dwelling on their 4-0 regular season victory at Sparks on Sept. 7.
"We beat Reed 4-1 in the regular season last year and then lost in the zone tournament, so we're not taking anything for granted," Schmidt said. "And Sparks has been an improved team late in the season. They won their last two games to push McQueen out of the playoffs."
Canino echoed that about the Railroaders (7-7-3), who lost all-conference sweeper Jillian Olson late in the season due to a knee injury.
"They certainly have come on strong, which is a good way to come into the tournament," said Canino, whose squad absorbed a 1-0 loss to Sparks. "That's been an excellent coaching job (by Doug Hildebrand)."
Douglas features a balanced offensive attack led by Julia Spaulding's 19 goals. Kali Schmidt has 13 goals while Sarah Shearer has 12 goals and 17 assists. Amber Gwinn has also scored nine goals, Abby Aldrich seven and Stehanie Webb has distributed 13 assists.
There's no overlooking the defense, either, as goalie Ashley Sulprizio leads a unit that allowed just eight goals in 17 games (Douglas and Carson established conference records for fewest goals allowed this season, according to Schmidt). Sulprizio recorded 12 shutouts, and of the eight goals allowed, half that total came in a 4-1 loss at Reed on Oct. 9.
Carson hosts Elko in a rematch of last year's zone first round, a match the Senators won 5-0. Carson also defeated Elko earlier this season, 1-0 on a Jessica Bray goal on Sept. 4.
The Senators closed out their regular season last Tuesday when they battled Reed to a scoreless tie in a rematch of last year's zone final.
Carson defeated Reed in the 1998 title match as goalie Pam Williams stopped three balls during the penalty kick shoot-out. Williams has only allowed eight goals this season.
Galena reached the zone semifinals for the first time ever last year. The Grizzlies lost to Reed 1-0, and now they would like to go further.
"I think we'll come out and play some good ball this week," Canino said. "I feel good about how we're coming together. We certainly are not going to look at anybody lightly. We know we're going to have to battle every inch of the way."
Junior forward Annie Baxter is the player to keep an eye on, although Canino hopes to spread the ball around a little bit.
"She's scored at least 20 goals and she's pretty close to that in assists," he said. "We know other teams are starting to look at her a lot and we're trying to get other people involved with the scoring."
The Grizzlies have also been sparked by the midfield play of freshman Megan Baumbach and junior Patricia Garrick. Sweeper Karla Orellana and fullback Tiffani Thomas are also mainstays on the defensive end.
The zone girls and boys championship games will be played Saturday at Carson High School. No 4A girls state champion is crowned in Nevada because the North plays a fall season and the South plays in the winter.
Boys zone tournament play begins Wednesday when Douglas hosts Elko, Reed hosts Carson, South Tahoe hosts Sparks and McQueen hosts Reno. Reno is the defending zone champion and Carson the defending state champ.