SPARKS -- Perhaps, Carson High's Ali Banister said it best.
"This is zone, anything can happen."
The Senator boys and coach Jim Nealis now painfully understand those words, as does the South Tahoe boys. Both teams were upset by lower seeded High Desert League teams on Saturday in the first round of the Northern 4A playoffs. McQueen used a late goal to knock out Carson, 1-0 at Spanish Springs, while Sparks advanced to the zone semifinals after beating the Vikings on penalty kicks, 4-3 at Reed High.
Fortunately, both the Carson and Douglas girls advanced, although it might be more accurate to say the Tigers survived.
Douglas knocked out a pesky Lancer team in penalty kicks at Spanish Springs after the two teams were tied 1-1 after regulation.
Goalie Mallory Moore saved McQueen's first penalty kick chance, then the Lancers missed two more over the crossbar while Hannah Sullivan, Tracey Hawks, and Jessica Girdner all converted their chances to seal the victory. Sullivan's goal was the first time Douglas actually scored. In regulation, the Tigers tied the game at 1 after a McQueen own goal.
"We didn't play the way Douglas normally does," said Douglas coach Fred Schmidt. "But McQueen's physical play really kept us from playing the way we wanted to."
Needless to say, Moore came up huge.
"I've done that a million times," said Moore, who was noticeably relaxed heading into the shootout. "Making that first save always helps. We came out a little flat, then we stepped it up, but McQueen was a physical team."
A pair of Banister goals was the only offense the Senator girls needed to hold off a surprisingly tough Galena team, 2-0 at Reed High. Banister scored on a free kick at the end of the first half, then finished a loose ball scramble in front of the Grizzly goal in the second to secure the victory.
"They (Galena) played us tough, but we didn't come out ready to play," Banister said. "We just played really flat and were back on our heels."
The girls bracket went according to form, as Reed, the High Desert's No. 1 seed, blanked South Tahoe 3-0 and Reno shutout Elko 4-0. On Tuesday in zone semifinals, the Raiders (14-1-1) will play the Tigers (13-2-1) at 4:30 p.m. and Carson (15-0-1) will take on Reno (12-3-1) at 6:30. Both games are at Reed. The Senators have beaten the Huskies both times this season, 2-0 and 1-0.
Not only were the Carson and South Tahoe boys thought to be cinches for the semifinals, it wasn't a stretch to think one of the two teams would be the lone Northern 4A team to advance to the Nevada 4A State Tournament.
The Senators dominated the entire game, but allowed McQueen (9-4-3) to hang around. And in the 72nd minute, the Lancers made them pay. Dan Dooley's indirect kick from near midfield got behind the Carson defense and Elliot Chappell ran onto it and his shot got past goalie Sean Carter.
The Senators finish the season at 12-4 after starting the season 10-0.
"It was an ugly game to watch them (McQueen) kick the ball all game, while we were playing nice possession and good soccer the entire game," Nealis said. "We had our chances. We had the ball in the box so many times, but just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. It was frustrating to watch because they had one lucky goal and that's all that they needed."
The Railroaders and the Vikings played to a scoreless draw in regulation. But Sparks outscored South Tahoe, 4-3 in penalty kicks to advance to Thursday's seminal match against Reno.
In other first round boys action, the Huskies (11-3-2) scored a penalty kick in overtime to get past Galena. Reed (10-3-3), the defending Nevada 4A State Champions, shutout North Valleys, 3-0 and will play the Lancers on Thursday in the other semifinal. Both games are at Reed.