Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer outlasts rival Feather River in penalty kicks, advances to CCCAA final four |

Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer outlasts rival Feather River in penalty kicks, advances to CCCAA final four

by Anthony Gentile
LTCC sophomores Jerrell Cato (left) and Ivan Rodriguez (right) prepare to attack after the opening kickoff Saturday.
Courtesy Photo |

The Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer team is one of the last four teams standing in California.

The fifth-seeded Coyotes downed eighth-seeded Feather River College (Quincy, Calif.) in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw in the third round of the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs on Saturday, outlasting their conference rival to advance to the state final four.

“The whole team stepped up, everybody played the role that they needed to and ultimately it was a pretty exhilarating feeling when we won,” Coyotes head coach Nick Arbelaez said. “These boys worked so hard and they absolutely deserved it.”

The Coyotes advance to the CCCAA State Championships as the North’s second seed and face South top seed Oxnard College (17-4-3) in the semifinals today at 10 a.m. at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif. North top seed Evergreen Valley College (San Jose, Calif.) and South second seed Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, Calif.) meet in the second semifinal at 1:30 p.m.

“These boys worked so hard and they absolutely deserved it.”Nick ArbelaezCoyotes head coach

“This is an opportunity we’re relishing,” Arbelaez said. “We’re not just happy to be there — we want to go there and take the whole thing.”

After 120 scoreless minutes that included regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods, the third contest between the conference foes went to penalty kicks. Lake Tahoe (18-4-2) and Feather River (15-6-1) split its two regular season meetings, and couldn’t be separated in the rubber match.

“They beat us at our place, we beat them at their place, and it was fitting that it went into double overtime and penalty kicks to decide who’s going to the final four,” Arbelaez said. “It was pretty evenly matched. They threw their best at us and we did the same to them.”

The Coyotes won the shootout 4-3, rallying past the Golden Eagles after failing to convert in the first round. Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Trujeque, Josh Sapsed and Danny Culverwell each scored on LTCC’s next four tries, and Cameron McConnachie stopped two Feather River shots as Lake Tahoe prevailed in dramatic fashion.

“When you get to that point, it’s really like flipping a quarter; who’s going to make the big save and who’s going to have the biggest miss?” Arbelaez said. “To fatally finish the season on penalty kicks is tough.”

McConnachie was subbed in with three minutes left in the second overtime period to handle the shootout duties. The teams were tied 2-2 when he stopped a Golden Eagles shot in the third round. Then he secured the Coyotes’ win with a second diving save in the fifth round.

“We stayed pretty calm after we missed and they didn’t put their heads down,” Arbelaez said. “They kept battling, and they had confidence that Cam was going to make the big-time saves.”

In regulation, both teams had scoring chances but were unable to convert — Lake Tahoe hit the post on two separate occasions while Feather River did so once. In the overtime periods, neither team could generate a scoring threat as the match concluded without a goal.

“It was a battle of who was going to be standing in the last seconds,” Arbelaez said. “Both teams were exhausted and pretty banged up.”

Lake Tahoe’s third postseason win means it will play in the CCCAA State Championships in just the second year of its program. The Coyotes’ run to the final four started and ended with hard-fought matches against conference opposition, including Saturday’s victory over Golden Valley Conference runner-up Feather River.

“Feather River has a great team,” Arbelaez said. “They were by far the most complete team that we played, from their keeper up to their forwards they were a class group.”

The state championship game will be played Saturday at De Anza. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

“We set three goals at the beginning of the year — win conference, win regionals and then win state,” Arbelaez said. “The fact that two of those three have come to fruition puts us in a position to really make history.”