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Soccer: Real Reno takes second place at nationals

by Joey Crandall

After becoming the first Northern Nevada team to ever advance to the national championships, the Real Reno girls’ soccer club took it a step further, advancing all the way to the title game before coming up just short in late July.

Real Reno, which featured eight Douglas High players, went 2-1 in the preliminary round of U.S. Club Soccer National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va., but fell 3-0 to Empire USA Blue, one of the top teams out of New York in the national championship game.

“They actually ended being both of our losses in the tournament,” said Real Reno coach Owen Blake. “They were a really good team and they obviously had a huge pool of players to draw from.

“But we held our own against them. We had a lot of chances to score and we held a lot of the possession, but it just didn’t go our way. That’s just how the game goes sometimes.”

Real Reno clinched one of six spots in the tournament by winning the Western Region championship.

“We knew from the start that we had some very talented players,” Blake said. “They were determined to continue to get better. We pushed our speed of play up as the season progressed and we did a lot of technical training, but from the start we knew we had a really great group of players.”

Real Reno opened the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Empire USA Blue, the same team they ended up seeing in the finals.

Weather came into play as games were played in 105-degree heat with 100 percent humidity.

“It was something else,” Blake said. “We had to work with strategies to keep the girls rested and hydrated but they really stuck in there and played their hearts out.”

Real Reno came back to defeat the WC Classics out of Pennsylvania 2-0.

Douglas junior Tia Lyons scored both goals in the game.

Reno beat Northern Steel SC, also out of Pennsylvania, 2-1 to advance to the championship game.

Northern Steel took an early lead in the game, but Lyons assisted on a game-tying goal from Morgan Allen and later headed an Allen cross into the goal for the game-winner.

The win put Real Reno in a tie for first in the bracket with the Maryland Rush Nike 93, but Reno advanced on a tiebreaker having allowed fewer goals in the tournament.

That set up the second meeting with Empire USA Blue in the title game.

“Overall, it was just a great experience for the girls,” Blake said. “The atmosphere, the competition level. It was championship teams from around the country. The fields were perfect, the refereeing was great. Nike was there sponsoring it and the top college coaches in the country were there watching it.

“I think the girls will look back on this down the road and remember this as one of the best experiences of their lives.”

Blake noted the play of the Douglas High athletes specifically. The Tigers won the state championship last year and return the bulk of their starting lineup, many of whom were on the Real Reno roster.

“They made a huge contribution to our success,” Blake said. “They’re such a good and talented group, especially for this age bracket.

“A lot of them played for Tim Dry (Carson Valley Net Rippers) from the time they were little. He’s just done a great job of developing some of that talent down there. They’ve developed a whole core of kids and brought them to a high level.”

During the spring season, Real Reno played in nine tournaments, made the semifinals in each, made it to the finals in eight tournaments and won three of those.

“I think we established ourselves as one of the very best showcase teams in the country and we did that playing against some of the best showcase teams in the country,” Blake said.

Blake said the club will hold tryouts after the high school season sometime in November.

“We’re already looking toward next season,” he said. “We laid the groundwork for something special this year. We’re aiming to go to some of the biggest tournaments in the country next year. I just hope the girls have a great high school season and I’m looking forward to some great things to come for them.”

Real Reno players included Kaedi Walther, Kayla Schlittenhart, Chloe Brieder, Alison Chambon, Shannon Prinz, Holly Downer, Emily Ziolkowolski, Shauna Day, Kaitlyn Varble, Tia Lyons, Cora Moody, Shannon Hubbard, Mackenzie Kline, Morgan Allen and Brianna Randall.

Players hailing from Douglas were Chambon, Prinz, Downer, Varble, Lyons, Moody, Hubbard and Randall.

The Douglas players were able to attend the tournament with the help of many community businesses and organizations.

Most of their funds were raised through service organization donations, local professional sponsors, donations of raffle prizes, personal donations from community members and supporters who purchased raffle tickets.

For more information on the club, visit http://www.realrenofc.com.