Again, Sparks enters this year’s tournament as the No. 3 seed and similarities are shaping up to that run.
Despite finishing third in league, the Railroaders are not a team to be taken lightly, having tied league-leading South Tahoe and defeating second-place Truckee within the last week and a half. Sparks is the only reason the Vikings did not go 12-0-0 in league play this fall.
“We’re not taking it for granted. That’s our hard work. It’s not secret what we do here. We take pride in our conditioning and improving every week,” Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said. “This year we have a special group and we’ve improved on at least one new thing each week. They’ve improved on everything we’ve asked of them, which is different than in years past. I feel like we’re starting to peak right now, and we showed that with Truckee and South Tahoe.”
As the third seed, Sparks has to travel in the first round. No. 2 seed Fallon will play host to the Railroaders Wednesday at 3 p.m.
The two teams have not met this season.
“We know they’re quick. We know they have decent touch, and we know they are the No. 2 team over there, so that means they have to be pretty good,” Avilla said. “They’re coming into the 3A from the 4A and my opinion is that our division is the toughest division in the state. We prove that year in and year out. For Fallon to drop in and make it their first year, it’s very honorable of them. We’re not looking past them.”
Avilla expects home-field advantage to play a factor and is encouraging his players to think they are down by a couple goals before they start the game in order to jump out of the gates early.
Sparks is familiar with the Fallon field though. A year ago, the Railroaders reached the regional championship game before falling to Incline. The two teams met again in the state championship with the same outcome.
Avilla has a good idea of what it will take to get over the hump this time around.
“We just have to play within ourselves and not try to reinvent the wheel,” Avilla said. “We’ll continue to strive for success, which is what we’ve been doing every week this year, and not take anything for granted. We saw that Incline beat Fallon early in the year, and we beat Incline handily each time this year. We’re trying to tell the boys that was in the beginning of the year. Fallon has improved and we’ve improved so don’t look past anybody.”