"This is a hard way to lose," Reed girls soccer coach Jason Saville said after the heart-breaking defeat. "Sure it was nice a couple years when we beat them like this for the state championship. But it's tough to lose, especially after both teams gritted it out and left it all the field."
Eighty minutes of regulation soccer and a pair of sudden-death overtime periods could not decide a winner Saturday. In fact neither team could score a goal through the 110 minutes of action. That left the game's fate to be decided by the penalty kick shootout.
In a shootout, both teams get five players to kick. Even that could not determine a winner. The postseason rivals each made four of five shots with goalkeepers Lexi Nunes-Fenley of South Tahoe and Jesse Eiting of Reed each recording a block.
That left a sudden-death PK session. Each team knocked in their first try, leaving the penalty kick phase knotted at 5-5. South Tahoe's Natalie Flynn gave the Vikings a 6-5 edge. That margin stood up as the Raiders final attempt to stay deadlocked sailed high over the goal's crossbar, ending the match.
"I hate it (the shootout). I absolutely hate it," South Tahoe coach Clint Lockhart said. "A couple years ago that ended our state championship hopes. I'd much rather just play until someone scores."
Both teams had chances in regulation and overtime to help their team avoid a shootout. South Tahoe (16-4-2) nearly ended the match with two minutes to go in the first overtime. Vikings senior Becky Bruce got a clear look at the goal from the middle of Reed's defensive box and got off a good shot. However, Eiting got just enough of it to deflect it high, where it bounced off the crossbar and back into the field of play before it was cleared away.
Two minutes earlier, Reed's Jessica Allen got a clean shot off from 20 yards out, but it was scooped up and denied by Nunes-Fenley, who was playing in just her second game after missing nearly the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL in her knee.
"Their goalkeeper has got to be their MVP because she saved them," Saville said. "She kept a couple good shots out in regulation, saved a direct kick and a penalty kick. She played big for them."
Reed (9-5-1) dominated possession for most of the second half and the overtimes, but still struggled to score. With seven minutes left in the contest, Raiders midfielder Alissa Marshall fired off an open shot from the wing, but it sailed high over the goal.
In the closing seconds of the second half, Allen got a clear look at the goal from just inside the Vikings defensive box, but could not get enough on the shot to beat Nunes-Fenley, who made the save, just before the clock expired.
"Offensively, it can be hard when you run a one-forward system like we do," Saville said. "We watched some film on them and game planned. We thought we could exploit the back side. I don't know if they made an adjustment or what, but that wasn't there in the first half. So we went with a more direct approach. It worked. We were better, but South Tahoe did a good job keeping us out of the back of the net."
Viking defenders were relentless in their efforts to slow down Reed's all-league forward Kelsey Gomer. The senior led the Raiders in scoring throughout the season, but could not get off a good shot Saturday.
"Before the match started, we knew Kelsey had been their big scorer. Our kids worked and stayed tight on her," Lockhart said. "In the first half, we started strong and in the second half, they turned it on ... I think the lack of offense was kind of due to two contrasting styles. That got the game into a slower pace."
Reed's loss means their will be a new 4A North state champion. The Raiders had captured the last three crowns.
"South Tahoe was just on us the whole game, but we played super well," said Gomer, who missed out on being a four-time state champion. "We left everything on the field."